Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje urged research institutions and support organizations to join the agency in the conduct of comprehensive biodiversity assessment and inventory of the country’s key biodiversity areas (KBAs) and protected areas.

Paje made the call during the recent unveiling of two new species of frog discovered on Mt. Nacolod in Southern Leyte, at the National Museum in Manila.

“With the highest rate of discovery of new species in the country, it is expedient for the DENR and support organizations, especially research institutions, to conduct more comprehensive biodiversity assessments in our key biodiversity areas (KBAs) and protected areas,” Paje said.

Paje stressed the importance of such assessments not only to the discovery of more species but also in providing policy and decision makers a sound basis for crafting appropriate conservation measures.

But, at the same time, he admonished that “we must move fast and produce credible results as we are competing against other pressing economic development agenda of the government.”

He cited the recent biodiversity assessment conducted in Southern Leyte in November last year that resulted in the discovery of two new species of frogs that belong to genus Platymantis and a total of 229 recorded flora species, 31 of which are unique to the country.

The assessment was jointly conducted by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the DENR, DENR-Region 8, the Flora and Fauna International and the National Museum of the Philippines.

“The discovery of the new frog species brings pride to every Filipino as our country harbors an array of amazing wildlife, many of which are still waiting to discovered,” he said.

The Philippines has been recognized in the international community as having the highest rate of discovery of new species in the world. In the last 10 years, at least 36 new endemics have been discovered in various parts of the country.

The ground assessment on Mt. Nacolod revealed that there were still “some patches of pristine forest” on the mountain where the two frogs were discovered, some portions of it have been opened up due to agricultural expansion and the pressure of growing human population.

Meanwhile, PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim said during the event that the discovery of some 40 new species in the country in the last 10 years, including the new frog species from Mt. Nacolod and a new species of cloud rat in Dinagat Island, “make the Philippines a conservation priority country in the world”.

“Biodiversity brings immeasurable direct and indirect benefits not only to the country but also to the global community. This is the reason why the government is continuously working towards providing the necessary conservation measures to rehabilitate and protect the habitats of species,” Lim said.

Also present during the unveiling ceremony were Ralph Timmermann, deputy head of Mission, German Embassy; Dr. Bern-Markus Liss, principal advisor for the Climate –Relevant Modernization of Forest Policy and Piloting of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the Philippines, GIZ; Dr. Neil Aldrin D. Mallari, country director of Fauna and Flora International; and Director Jeremy Barns of the National Museum of the Philippines.