Representatives from 21 countries converge in Palawan to discuss climate change impacts on biosphere

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 17 (PNA) -– Representatives from 21 countries all over the world converge Tuesday in this capital city of Palawan to discuss the impacts of climate change and how the specific problems it causes on island and coastal biosphere reserves can be addressed and mitigated.

Under the 4th Meeting of the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves, nearly 50 international participants from as far as Yemen, Spain and Sweden arrived in Puerto Princesa to start the four-day evaluation of past actions and explore new directions for the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves (WNICBR).

Led by Dr. Miguel Clusener-Godt of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the WNICBR was created in 2012 in an aim “to study, implement and disseminate island and coastal strategies to preserve biodiversity and heritage, promote sustainable development, and adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Its two technical headquarters coordinate the network and work together at the global level: the office in the island of Jeju, Republic of Korea, focuses on climate change issues while the other in Menorca, Spain, specializes in sustainable development.

The network was formed by the representatives of 20 islands and coastal biosphere reserves around the world, including Palawan, Philippines, which is “a Man and Biosphere Reserve.”

Accordingly, “island and coastal areas biosphere reserves around the world have different natural, socio-economic and political characteristics.” However, under climate change, they face similar problems that can be resolved and mitigated in common ways.

In his opening speech Tuesday, Godt said minor islands located in the Carribean and the Asia Pacific Region are mostly vulnerable to the ill-effects of climate change, such as “poverty, natural disasters that now have massive results, relocation of people, forfeiture of traditional culture, and onslaught of invasive species, which could have changing effects in the balance of marine and terrestrial island ecosystems and cause irreversible harm of biodiversity.”

Godt and the international participants were welcomed by Mayor Lucilo Bayron, who said that the city could learn from what will be discussed in the network meeting since being part of the island province of Palawan makes Puerto Princesa isolated too, from the entire country.

With the aims of the WNICBR, Puerto Princesa, he said, can learn how to cut losses during the occurrence of natural disasters by incorporating in its risk reduction management plan strategies that could effectively mitigate the effects of climate change in the city and its residents.

A city with five bays – Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa Bay, Ulugan Bay, Oyster Bay, and Binunsalian Bay – that provide safe places for human settlement and fishing, Bayron recognizes that it is no longer impossible for climate change from seriously affecting communities set up in them.

Represented, on the other hand, by Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta, Governor Jose Alvarez stressed that as a “man and biosphere reserve,” it is important to the Palawan leadership to always strive to find a balance in managing the people and the environment, where they live.

Sustainable balance in conserving the province’s biodiversity, while at the same time fostering economic development, is paramount in his agenda to ensure that Palawan’s poverty index of 63.38 percent is reduced in the coming years.

Palawan was held a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO on March 27, 1990 in Paris, France because of its unique and abundant natural endowments.

The UNESCO declaration quoted that Palawan “is recognized as part of the international network of biosphere reserves, this network of protected samples of the world’s major ecosystem types is devoted to conservation of nature and scientific research in the service of man. It provides a standard against which can be measured the effects of man’s impact on his environment.”(PNA)
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