In celebration of the World Environment Day on June 5, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are calling for bold actions to help restore the world's ecosystems.

In a joint statement, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu and UNDP Resident Representative to the Philippines Selva Ramachandran said healthy ecosystems are vital to the welfare and survival of humanity, as they provide essential products and benefits.

"Nature purifies the air we breathe, regulates our climate, cleans our water, and provides us with food and medicine," Cimatu and Ramachandran said.

However, the two officials lamented decades of unrelenting economic growth at the expense of natural resources that have taken a toll on oceans, forests, wetlands and rivers, threatening the survival of mankind.

"Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, landmark reports from 2018-2019 have presented us with a bleak outlook for 2020 and beyond," Cimatu and Ramachandran said.

Among the major environmental threats currently faced by the world's ecosystems are global warming, plastic waste pollution and biodiversity loss.

Global warming is expected to persist between 2030 and 2052 with temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius driving further changes to the climate.

"If that isn’t worrying enough, around one million species are on the brink of extinction unless action is taken to reduce the drivers of biodiversity loss," they said.

Moreover, the rising temperatures have led to frequent disasters that disproportionately affect vulnerable households, and the ability of natural ecosystems to protect at-risk communities is rapidly diminishing.

The Philippines has also lost 10.9 million of forest cover or an average loss of 194,000 hectares each year.

Fish stocks are drastically overfished in almost all areas except Eastern Luzon, Palawan and the Southern Sulu Sea.

Reef conditions, an indicator of fish productivity, have similarly declined.

In 1997, just four percent were in excellent condition, down to less than one percent in 2012.

Cimatu and Ramachandran also highlighted the pressing environmental threat from plastic waste pollution.

Scientists expect that by 2050, the country’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish.

"Microplastics have entered our food chain, with many fish and marine mammals ingesting microplastics on an unprecedented scale," they said.

The country’s rivers, coastal and marine areas have suffered from marine litter, especially uncollected plastic waste.

The Philippines ranks as the third-largest contributor of marine plastics globally, which compromises fish productivity, tourism, and human health.

In addition, mangrove cover is down from around 500,000 hectares to almost half this amount.

Land degradation in the form of soil erosion and fertility decline has affected agricultural activities in the Philippines affecting 33 million Filipinos.

However, both officials remain hopeful despite the current situation.

As the Philippines joins the celebration of this year’s World Environment Day, Cimatu and Ramachandran encouraged the public to support the global campaign for the healing of nature through the restoration of our ecosystems.

"All is not lost, however, and change is taking place," they said, as various sectors have joined hands to help repair the country’s ecosystems.

Cimatu cited the National Greening Program or NGP--the DENR's banner program aiming to plant 1.5 billion trees on 1.5 million hectares--that has been receiving massive support from the private sector and non-government organizations.

He also pointed out other achievements in pushing for ecological restoration, which include the significant increase of protected areas in the country; strengthened wildlife protection through coordinated efforts among law enforcement agencies; and reduced footprints of plastic users, and minimized plastic use.

"Treating well-managed ecosystems as assets would go a long way in advancing the protection and improved management and the proper valuation of natural resources and their integration into national accounting systems will provide a full picture of their value to the economy," the DENR and UNDP officials said.

Moreover, they said that technology application, science-based approaches to restoration and environmental management, investment in research, and appropriate monitoring will rehabilitate the country’s ecosystems.

"We must do our part as responsible stewards of our planet before it’s too late. It is, after all, the only planet we’ve got," Cimatu and Ramachandran said. ###