The Philippines will host the 6th Meeting of the ASEAN Task Force on Peatlands (ATFP) and the 3rd Program Steering Committee Meetings of ASEAN Peatland Programmes and Projects on June 28-30, 2021, under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The sessions will “keep the country on track in conserving the peatlands as it aspires to oversee the implementation and monitoring of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS),” according to DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu in a statement.
“We want to continuously educate the public about the importance of peatlands in our ecosystems, and we could only do this by being updated with the latest methodologies on how our neighboring countries also keep their peatlands sustainably managed,” Cimatu said.
Wetland habitats characterized by the buildup of organic matter originating from dead and partially degraded plant material that has accumulated under high water saturation or waterlogged conditions are known as peatlands.
Peatlands cover only three percent of the Earth’s land surface, but if kept moist, they can store twice as much carbon as all of the world’s forests combined, making them a globally important ecosystem for carbon sequestration. It is also a diverse environment that sustains biodiversity and aids in the mitigation of climate change.
There are currently nine confirmed peatlands in the country, all of which are classified as tropical peatlands in the ASEAN area.
One of the topics in the series of meetings, according to DENR Undersecretary for Special Concerns and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Edilberto Leonardo, will be the implementation of the ASEAN Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems, or APSMPE, for 2014 to 2020.
“With the increasing effects of climate change, we have to strategize to protect our peatlands by preventing the conversion, draining and forest fire that might happen on such significant ecosystems,” Leonardo said.
According to Leonardo, this is why the Bureau of Fire Protection, which is part of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, is joining the DENR in the activity and serving as an Alternate National Focal Point for the Philippine Delegation.
To oversee the implementation of the APMS, including the Programme, the ATFP was constituted as a subsidiary body of the Committee under the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
The APMS aims to raise peatland awareness and capability, combat transboundary haze pollution and environmental deterioration, promote sustainable peatland management, and promote regulatory compliance.
The DENR will chair the three meetings—Programme Steering Committee (PSC) 3 of the Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN, PSC3 of the Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia, and the ASEAN Task Force 6 or ATF6 meeting.
Participants in the series of PSC meetings will include representatives from the ASEAN member-states; donors such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development, European Union, Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety; and implementing partners such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Center for International Forestry Research, Global Environment Centre, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, and World Resources Institute.
The meetings of the ATFP aim to coordinate and strengthen the efforts of ASEAN member states in the protection, conservation, and sustainable use of peatland in the region.
It also serves as a venue to update where the member states are in terms of the implementation of the APMS in relation to their respective National Action Plan on Peatlands.