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Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu expressed high hopes that the Philippines will be joined by its Southeast Asian neighbors in the efforts to conserve and protect the region’s rich biodiversity, during the local celebration of ASEAN Week.

"We hope that our neighbors in the ASEAN region would join us in protecting our diverse flora and fauna to mark this week-long event with an environmental purpose and initiative," Cimatu said.

The annual celebration of the ASEAN Month and ASEAN Week is pursuant to Proclamation No. 282 signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on July 31, 2017.

It amended Proclamation No. 1008, which was signed in 1997, to declare August of every year as ASEAN Month and the dates ‪August 7 to 13 as ASEAN Week.‬‬‬‬

It also encourages all government agencies "to initiate and implement programs and activities to help generate awareness and public support in promoting the observance of ASEAN Month."

Cimatu cited that the 31st Meeting of the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (AWGNCB) held on July 8-9, 2021, "has been a productive preparation for the celebration of ASEAN Week this August and a crucial step towards tackling concerns involving biodiversity conservation efforts."

"We at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are delighted with the outcome of the meeting and hope that the agreements will materialize into fruitful ventures to save our treasured species," Cimatu pointed out.

Serving as a platform to promote biodiversity conservation among the ASEAN member-states, the meeting tackled the implementation of the AWGNCB Action Plan, Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, mainstreaming of biodiversity and the Joint ASEAN Statement to the 15th Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), among others.

DENR Undersecretary for Special Concerns and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Edilberto Leonardo, together with the Philippine delegation, hosted the meeting attended by fellow ASEAN member states composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and dialogue partners from various development organizations also joined the meeting.

"This meeting highlights a level of cooperation and synergy undampened by the restriction posed by COVID-19," said Leonardo, who also served as the chair for the AWGNCB meeting.

The Philippine delegation, represented by officials from the BMB, raised interventions and statements of support on various ASEAN activities.

In particular, the Philippine delegation put forward four statements of support on ASEAN initiatives and activities. These include pushing to build on the Bangkok Declaration to Combat Marine Debris, and promoting the mainstreaming of biodiversity into various development processes in the region, which was in the draft text of the ASEAN Joint Statement to the 15th meeting of the CBD Conference of Parties.

"Emphasizing the increasing importance for mainstreaming biodiversity, strong cohesive efforts among member-states and support from the ACB and other development partners are needed," Leonardo pointed out.

He added: “We can address the increasing problem on biodiversity. Now is the time for us to deal with hard truths and build back better under a new normal.” ###