The Philippines, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), will host the 6th Meeting of ASEAN Task Force on Peatlands (ATFP) Meeting and 3rd Programme Steering Committee Meetings of ASEAN Peatland Programmes and Projects slated for June 28-30, 2021.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the meetings will "keep the country on track in conserving the peatlands as it aims to oversee the implementation and monitoring of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS)."

"We want to continuously educate the public about the importance of peatlands in our ecosystems, and we could only do this by being updated with the latest methodologies on how our neighboring countries also keep their peatlands sustainably managed," Cimatu said.

Peatlands are wetland ecosystems characterized by the accumulation of organic matter derived from dead and partially decomposed plant material that has accumulated under high water saturation or waterlogged condition.

A peatland covers only three percent of the Earth’s land surface but it can store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined if kept wet, making it a globally important ecosystem in terms of carbon sequestration. It is also a rich ecosystem that supports biodiversity and plays an important role in climate change mitigation.

Currently, there are nine confirmed peatlands in the entire country which are listed as part of the tropical peatlands in the ASEAN region.

DENR Undersecretary for Special Concerns and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Edilberto Leonardo said that one of the topics in the series of meetings would be the implementation of the ASEAN Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems or APSMPE for 2014 to 2020.

"With the increasing effects of climate change, we have to strategize to protect our peatlands by preventing the conversion, draining and forest fire that might happen on such significant ecosystems," Leonardo said.

According to Leonardo, this is the reason why the Bureau of Fire Protection under the Department of the Interior and Local Government is joining the DENR in the activity and serves as one of the Philippine Delegation’s Alternate National Focal Point.

The ATFP was established as a subsidiary body of the Committee under the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution to oversee the implementation of the APMS, including the Programme.

The objectives of the APMS include enhancing the awareness and capacity on peatlands; addressing the transboundary haze pollution and environmental degradation; promoting sustainable management of peatlands; and promoting regional cooperation.

The DENR will chair the three meetings—Programme Steering Committee (PSC) 3 of the Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN, PSC3 of the Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia, and the ASEAN Task Force 6 or ATF6 meeting.

Participants in the series of PSC meetings will include representatives from the ASEAN member-states; donors such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development, European Union, Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety; and implementing partners such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Center for International Forestry Research, Global Environment Centre, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, and World Resources Institute.

The meetings of the ATFP aim to coordinate and strengthen the efforts of ASEAN member states in the protection, conservation, and sustainable use of peatland in the region.

It also serves as a venue to update where the member states are in terms of the implementation of the APMS in relation to their respective National Action Plan on Peatlands. ###