DENR Benefit Sharing Program to support rural communities and IPs

The government will implement a benefit-sharing program to secure the Philippines’ “genetic” wealth through endemic plants and animals and provide economic opportunities to indigenous peoples (IPs) and poverty-stricken rural communities.

The access and benefit-sharing (ABS) framework of the country’s genetic wealth will be adopted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in accordance with the Nagoya Protocol, according to a press release.

The Nagoya Protocol is an international agreement that aims to share the benefits of the use of genetic resources in a fair and equitable manner. It entered into force on October 12, 2014.

A genetic resource is a physical object of biological origin and the intellectual information associated with it such as traditional knowledge. An example is the knowledge of an indigenous people about the use of a plant as a treatment for disease.

The poorest in society who come from ancestral domains, such as IPs, in the mountains and rural communities are among the targeted beneficiaries of the treaty.

The DENR project will span six years and will be funded under the seventh round of the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Development Programme.

“The project will increase economic opportunities and biodiversity conservation for local communities and IPs through the fair and equitable sharing of biodiversity benefits,” according to a memorandum from Director Natividad Y. Bernardino of the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau.

The project costs a total of $26.015 million. Of this amount, $4.384 million is supported by the GEF and $21.631 million is co-financed by the Philippine government.

Over the past decade, scientific research activities have increased due to the rise of Filipino intellectuals and “Balik scientists”, or returning scientists, from abroad.

These intellectuals were enticed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to participate in local “brain gain.”

Filipino researchers have explored the production of medicines, pharmaceuticals, natural food ingredients, clothing and raw materials for furnishings, commercial products and industrial products, such as accessories for commercial vehicles.

They exploited the country’s natural resources of plants and animals from its rich biodiversity.

“A research venture with the private sector for possible adoption will be established,” according to the report submitted by Deputy Director Sabrina R. Cruz of DENR-Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Services.

The first component of the project, titled “Implementation of the National Framework for Access and Benefit-Sharing of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge”, harmonizes policies with the Nagoya Protocol on Bioprospecting Policies and Scientific Research .

Policies include the commercialization of genetic resources on flora and fauna, or plants and animals.

The Philippines was one of the first countries to implement access and benefit sharing under Article 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity through Executive Order 275 of 1995.

It has since been amended by the Wildlife Act or Republic Act (RA) 9147 and supported by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or RA 8371 of 1997.

With DENR-BMB as the project lead, other implementing partners are the Office of Ecosystem Research and Development, DENR Regions 3 and 4, Department of Agriculture, Provincial Office of Environment and Natural Resources-Sorsogon, National Indigenous Peoples Commission, DOST and local government units.

The second component consists of the dissemination of information on the national policy for access to these genetic resources.

Policies on intellectual property rights, such as patents and commercial licensing instruments, will be strengthened.

It will achieve capacity building of IPs and local communities in asserting their rights over their indigenous knowledge systems and practices.

The third component is to facilitate the negotiation of ABS agreements.

“It will support community protocols for the security of prior informed consent and mutually agreed terms to ensure fair and equitable sharing of monetary and non-monetary benefits from genetic resources.”

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