PH bats for ‘ecosystem accounting’

Chris Schnabel

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PH bats for ‘ecosystem accounting’
'The GDP fails to measure important things for determining whether the country is on a path toward sustainable development'
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government reiterated its policy on sustainable development through ecosystem accounting, which seeks to balance the use of natural resources with the need to better manage them.
In a session on Wednesday, February 18, policy advocates discussed the World Bank’s Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES), a project spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for the Philippines. The other core implementing countries of WAVES are Botswana, Columbia, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Indonesia.  
WAVES aims to promote sustainable development through “Natural Capital Accounting,” which ensures that natural resources are factored in the development planning and national economic accounts.
Ecosystem accounting is intended to weigh the trade-offs between the economic use of natural resources and ecosystem resource degradation, according to Stefanie Sieber, an environmental economist at the World Bank Group.
“The traditional measure of economic performance is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but it fails to measure important things for determining whether the country is on a path to sustainable development,” said NEDA Deputy Director-General Emmanuel Esguerra.

Introducing natural accounts can improve the measurement of economic performance and progress toward sustainable development, Esguerra added.

In April 2014, the World Bank approved a grant of $700,615 (P30.96 million) for the assessment of the Philippines’ natural wealth, including mangroves and minerals.

In September 2014, the country officially launched its work on an ecosystem accounting with consultation and workshops for two pilot sites: Laguna Lake Basin and Southern Palawan.

Toward informed policies

DISCUSSION. Partners in Project WAVES discuss the important of ecosystem accounting in a bid for sustainable development. Photo by Chris Schnabel/Rappler

At present, there is no timetable for integrating environmental accounting into calculating the GDP, said Raymundo Talento, interim national statistician for the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), a stakeholder in the partnership.

However, the findings from WAVES can still aid policy-makers, said former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Elisea Gozun, now serving as a consultant to the World Bank.

“Southern Palawan is rich in biodiversity, with a protected areas such as Mt. Mantalingajan and a growing tourism hotspot, but also has growing mangrove plantations, agriculture, fisheries, and operating mines,” Gozun said.

The findings from WAVES will help key decision-makers decide on the conflicting land use with sustainable development in mind, Gozun added.

Laguna Lake Basin is another area that is used for many different purposes, such as fisheries, agriculture, and industrial uses. At the same time, it is used as water source for Metro Manila and will continue to be the key water source for the future.

Ecosystem accounting will also help inform policy-makers on how to properly price water from the lake, Gozun said. –

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