Famous for the fierce Philippine Eagle, the wide-eyed Tarsier, the majestic Pawikan, the lovely Rafflesia, and the scrumptious Dried Mangoes, the Philippines is considered as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspot as it is home to thousands of different plants and animals species.
The Philippines is also considered the richest in marine biodiversity and coral reefs in the whole world. Aside from that, it is known for its bountiful mineral resources and vast land for agriculture.
Prior to any stain of urbanization, the Philippines was once the most enviable nation in the Southeast Asia.
In fact, our country ranked second in the world with the most diverse species of fishes; eight in species of reptiles, and fifth in species of plants, trees, and mammals. Our country is home to 8,120 species of flowering plants; 3,500 species of indigenous trees; 33 species of gymnosperms; 640 species of mosses; 2,400 species and sub-species of fish, and 3,000 species of plants which are endemic to the Philippines. We are also a biodiversity hotspot
The Philippines is also a rich source of minerals. In fact, 9 million hectares in our country contains metallic and non-metallic ores. We are also the 5th mineralized country in the world.
In terms of agriculture, 43 percent of the country’s total land area are considered as agricultural lands and more than half of it are for the production of rice and corn. We also have 1,210 species of different plants; 477 of which can be eaten, 627 can be used for medicine, and 35 are considered fibre crops. Banaue Rice Terraces- the most famous agricultural land in the Philippines
Moreover, we have the richest marine biodiversity and coral reefs in the world, which gives us the title of “Center of Marine Biodiversity.” Our oceans are home to 2,500 fish species and 800 coral reefs species. We have 421 rives, more than 69 natural lakes, 100,000 hectares of freshwater swamps, and four major groundwater reservoirs.
Section 16 Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”
But the question is, is the State really protecting our environment?
Unfortunately, the State is no match against rapid modernization and urbanization. Our diverse ecosystem has become a buffet of wealth and power for the capitalists and the upper-class as they unrelentingly turn forests into subdivisions, oceans into toxic waste zones, and animals into processed meals imported to first world countries who annually produce more than enough food waste to feed starving families in developing countries:
- Deforestation- This is caused by illegal logging and profit-oriented organizations
Since the 1900s, more than 28 million hectares of forest cover have been reduced and is still reducing at an average rate of 2 percent per year. Much of it was caused by the Spanish, Japanese, and American occupation. Today, it is being caused by large-scale illegal and legal logging, commercialization, and weak policy implementation. Moreover, foreign investors and private organizations are starting to dominate large forest areas causing more trees to be cut down, and lands to be converted to subdivisions or shopping centers.
What’s worrying is that of 180 native terrestrial mammal species living in forests, 61 percent of them are endemic; meaning that they cannot be found anywhere else in the world. If the depletion of forests continue to increase, then these animals would lose their habitat and may end up becoming endangered species. All of which caused by weak implementation of policies, inadequate regulations, and lack of funding.
- Exhaustive Mining-Due to the extractive nature of mining industry here in the Philippines, our mineral resources are being exhausted and utilized by foreign investors and private organizations. And because most of these companies don’t allocate budget for proper disposal of waste, our bodies of water are becoming contaminated and polluted.
3.. Water Pollution– Water pollution is causing the inhabitants of the bodies of water to die.As various toxic wastes are thrown in the bodies of water, many of its inhabitants are dying. Coral reefs are becoming bleached and what should have been a safe, drinking water can now be considered poisonous to any living creature. About 35 percent to 58 percent of water pollution comes from domestic sources. In Metro Manila alone, 7,000 tons of solid wastes are generated daily in 2008 and only 700 tons are either recycled or composted. Today, 158 out of 421 rivers are now unsafe for drinking, while another 50 is considered biologically dead such as the Marilao River, and the Laguna Lake.
Polluted water kills hundreds of fish which affects the livelihood of fishermen
Our fishermen have barely anything to catch and feed for their families. According to the Asian Development Bank, the quantity of marine organisms dropped to 90 percent this year. Mismanagement of fishery can lead to huge social and economic loss. Mangroves are also seen to be declining due to various coastal development of the aquaculture industry.
This crisis is caused by over-fishing, pollution of bodies of water, unsustainable fishery, open access policies, and privatization of municipal fisheries.
- Agricultural Crisis– Massive land conversion reduces land for agriculture purposes.Over 13 million hectares of agricultural land have been shrinking due to massive land conversion and privatization. Over 25 million hectares of land are degrading; thus, causing soil erosion and loss of topsoil. Crops and other farm produce are becoming heavily dependent on pesticides, which is dangerous to the health of consumers.
What’s worse is that more than 1 million farmers are displaced every year causing them to lose their only source of income and pushing them to the brink of starvation.
- Poverty– Environmental degradation is one of the leading causes of poverty.
All of these environmental destruction is contributing to the percentage of Filipinos living in poverty. Poor environment endangers the physical and mental health of individuals. Some are pushed towards violence out of desperation to survive, while others become heavily dependent on the help of the government and other organizations.
While population growth is increasing rapidly, resources are depleting just the same.
We can’t just say that we can sacrifice environment for the sake of progress. We should make a choice as a nation and a people.
Or it will be too late.
(reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org)