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PHL's Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion is tribute to nature and Filipinos – Business Mirror

DUBAI—Asean’s biodiversity and its contribution to daily lives were spotlighted on December 12 at the Philippines’s pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai called Bangkóta, an ancient word for coral reefs.
The Embassy of the Philippines in the United Arab Emirates, in cooperation with the Asean Centre for Biodiversity, held the second Embassy Bangkóta Apex Speaker Series called, “Ugnayan: Connected by seas, sharing one vision for people and nature,” on December 12, an ACB news release said.
The 30-minute talk of ACB executive directorDr. Theresa Mundita Lim, highlighted the interconnectivity of marine ecosystems and biodiversity in the Asean region and the Philippines’ key role being at the centre of the center of global marine biodiversity.
The Asean—composed of the 10 countries of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—boasts of abundant marine resources, 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs, 35 percent of mangroves and at least 33 percent of all seagrass habitats.
The Asean region is home to vast coral reefs, mangroves, estuaries, sandy and rocky beaches, seagrass and seaweed beds and other soft-bottom habitats.
These ecosystems account for a third of the world’s coastal and marine environments and provide breeding, nursing and feeding grounds for marine plants and animals, as well as food and resources vital to coastal populations’ livelihoods.
Fisheries, coastline protection, tourism, recreation and aesthetic aspects are estimated to provide total potential yearly economic net benefits per square kilometer of healthy coral reefs alone in the region, ranging from $23,100 to $270,000, the news release said.
“This sector employs approximately 80 million people. The processing, marketing, distribution, and supply industries associated with fishing and aquaculture employ up to another 10 million people,” Lim said.
The Asean’s coastline and marine areas are expected to house close to 500 million people by 2050. The region also accounts for 17 percent of the world’s fish production.
“While the seas may physically separate us, these bodies of water also help connect our islands, our lives and our cultures. People depend on these coastal and marine ecosystems for food, livelihood, and transportation, among others,” Lim said.
She explained that islands are linked by the waters due to larval dispersal brought by ocean currents. Ocean currents can transport coral and fish larvae over great distances. The term “connectivity” refers to how this type of movement connects habitats.
The region’s interconnectedness is also demonstrated by the movement of migratory birds traversing across the seas, and thereby connecting nations and regions.
This connectivity is exemplified by the Bangkóta design of the Philippines’s Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. As explained by the visionary architect behind the Bangkóta, Royal Pineda and designer Budji Layug, it “is a living coral reef, pulsating with people, movement, activities, flora and water features; all functioning as one global ecosystem.”
The Bangkóta is a representation of our deep connection with nature that dates back to prehistoric times, ACB said.
According to the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn M. Quintana, who opened the lecture, the Bangkóta is a metaphor for sustainability and is also a tribute to Filipinos all over the world, who manage to thrive wherever they are, despite the circumstances.
Endowed with two-thirds of the world’s biodiversity, or 70 percent to 80 percent of plant and animal species, the Philippines is a treasure trove of the Asean region’s marine biodiversity.
The Philippines, along with Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, make up the Coral Triangle, which has most of the world’s coral reefs.
The Coral Triangle is a vital part of the region’s marine environment and is the core of the worldwide distribution of reef-building corals, as it contains more than 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs.
As the center of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines serves as an abode to 18 of the world’s more than 67 species of seagrass, and to over 500 coral species, 2,500 reef fishes, and other marine biodiversity, the ACB news release said.
Part of the Coral Triangle is the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP) in the Philippines. Tubbataha is the country’s last remaining pristine seabird habitat where more than 30,000 seabirds breed. It also has the highest density of the world’s whitetip reef sharks.
The TRNP was designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site; a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance; an East Asian-Australasian Flyway site; a Blue Park and Particularly Sensitive Sea Area; and an Asean Heritage Park.
The most visible response in Asean to the need to safeguard marine biodiversity has been the creation of marine protected areas.
The Asean Heritage Parks (AHP) program is Asean’s flagship initiative for promoting effective protected area management and contributing to the conservation of ecosystems and resources.
It recognizes the region’s national parks and reserves for their uniqueness, ecological diversity and conservation values.
As the secretariat of the program, the ACB supports the AHPs by providing capacity enhancement activities, monitoring equipment, and law enforcement support to these outstanding protected areas in the region.
The ACB, the only Asean center hosted by the Philippines, was created by the Asean member-states to facilitate the conservation and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems that are connected to the lives of the Asean people.
Currently, there are 50 AHPs—nine of which are in the Philippines.
The AHPs in the Philippines are Mts. Iglit Baco National Park in Mindoro, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon, Mt. Malindang Natural Park in Misamis Occidental, Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Natural Park in Davao Oriental, Mt. Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument in Camiguin, and Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Agusan del Sur, the ACB news release said.
“Like what the BangkÓta says, man is nature. Nature and our rich biodiversity are part of our origin, our voyage, and our destination,” Lim said.
She added that the important connection between biodiversity and its contribution to our daily lives is a reminder of our role to protect it.
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