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Need to protect PH genetic resources vs biopiracy cited

  • Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
  • Published in Nation
  • Read: 277

A HOUSE leader has underscored the need for urgent executive action to protect the country’s genetic
resources against biopiracy by putting in place a stronger policy on access and benefit-sharing of
Philippine genetic resources.

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez Sato, vice chairman of the House committee on
economic affairs, said the country has the potential of becoming a global leader in the supply of
plant-based raw materials for health and wellness products given its rich biodiversity.
    
The Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change recently held a meeting wherein Undersecretary Analiza
Teh of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) presented a draft Executive Order on
access- and benefit-sharing.
    
Teh is DENR’s undersecretary for Climate Change and acts as head of the Secretariat of the
Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Cabinet Cluster (CCAM-DRR)
    
The draft E.O. titled “Strengthening the National Policy on Access -- and Benefit-Sharing from
the Utilization of Philippine Genetic Resources and for other Purposes highlights the country’s
economic potential of grabbing a foothold of the supply of plant-based raw materials for the multi-
billion-dollar global pharmaceutical, and health, and wellness industries.”
    
During her presentation, Teh said market trends and potentials from genetic resources is
enormous.
    
For the pharmaceutical industry alone, the market value as of 2008 is pegged at $643 million
while the estimated market value of healthy foods, including functional foods, natural and organic, is
pegged at 120 billion.
    
Representatives from key national government agencies who took part in the meeting have
expressed support behind the initiative.
    
Sato is championing a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) initiative called Biodiversity
Finance Initiative (BioFIN) which aims to close the financing gap for the protection and conservation
of the country’s rich biodiversity.
    
She noted that adequate financing is imperative to protect the country’s animal and plant-
based genetic resources against biopiracy.
    
“We need to put in place a stronger national policy to ensure that the country, especially the
communities where our resources are found, will benefit from the conduct of research and development
to extract active ingredients from plants with high medicinal and other commercial value,” Sato said.
    
Sato has filed a bill seeking to institutionalize access and benefit-sharing of Philippine
genetic resources, underscoring the potential economic benefits of sustainably managing the country’s
plant biodiversity.
    
Filed during the 17th Congress, House Bill (HB) No. 2163 is consistent with the country’s
commitment as party to several international treaties, including the Convention on Biological
Diversity (CBD), Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing or ABS, which states that if access is
given to do research and ultimately use of genetic resources, fair and equitable benefit-sharing must
be observed.
    
Sato said pending the approval by Congress of a law on access and benefit-sharing of
Philippine genetic resources, an Executive Order can serve as guidelines on bioprospecting where
investors and the state, which owns these resources, and the communities as its protectors can fairly
and equitably share the benefits.
    
Prior to the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change meeting, Sato and DENR Secretary Roy A Cimatu
met to tackle ways to strengthen existing national policy on access and benefit-sharing, essentially,
to prevent biopiracy.
    
During the meeting, the country’s chief steward of the environment and natural resources made
a commitment to integrate biodiversity protection and conservation in policies involving the
management of the country’s environment and natural resources.