(Delivered by Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia)

(Salutations)

Good morning and happy World Wetlands Day!

Today, we celebrate World Wetlands Day with 171 other member states around the world. It is an honor that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources together with its Biodiversity Management Bureau is at the helm of its Philippine celebration.

World Wetlands Day is being celebrated every February 2 annually to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. Presidential Proclamation no. 74 series of 1999 also declares February 2 of every year as National Wetlands Day in recognition of the immerse importance to the welfare of the Filipino people and the protection of global biodiversity. I am also extending my felicitations to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on the occasion of its 50th anniversary of adoption today.

Since our accession to the Convention on November 8, 1994, the Philippines has designated eight (8) Wetlands of International Importance or “Ramsar Sites.” These sites passed the criteria set by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in identifying Wetlands of International Importance and have undergone the tedious process of selection.

I would like to take this opportunity to announce that the Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetlands has been designated as the eighth Wetland of International Importance of the Philippines. Congratulations to all who labored to make it happen especially to PENRO Pampanga, DENR Central Luzon and the Local Government Unit of Sasmuan, Pampanga. The Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetlands fulfills four (4) criteria of the Ramsar Convention which confirms the international significance of its biodiversity and its services both at the species and ecosystems level.

Apart from designating Ramsar sites, I am also happy and proud to report the five most successful aspects of the recent implementation of the Convention in the Philippines through the DENR:

First is the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and Marine Protected Area Networks has gained greater contribution as a measure to reduce rapid degradation of marine and coastal wetlands and habitats; second is the amendment of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act into the Expanded – NIPAS which established protected areas that has wetland and seascape features and provides for the management of these sites; third is the approval of two (2) Philippine-authored Ramsar resolutions; fourth is the involvement of the private sector in wetland conservation through the landmark partnership between PLDT-Smart and the DENR to conserve the peatlands of Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Agusan del Sur and; finally, we are gaining legislative support for a national wetland policy through the filing of the National Wetland Conservation Act with the House of Representatives as House Bill No. 3460, An Act establishing a National Wetland Policy, and the House Bill No. 7206 An Act to Conserve, Protect and Sustainably Manage Peatlands and its Resources.

A win for wetlands is a win for us. As mentioned earlier, wetlands provide direct and indirect benefits to us. Wetlands can be our defender against climate change and natural disasters, provider of our basic needs such as food and water, source of livelihood and our healer by providing recreation and calming our senses.

The presence of a water element or wetland in a nature or forest setting provides an additional sense of calm and serenity. I look forward with optimism to the Urban Biodiversity Program of BMB and the promotion of Forest Bathing especially in Urban Areas as health is increasingly becoming a priority especially for people living in cities. I firmly believe that forest bathing can also be a hit in the Philippines as long as we protect and conserve our forests especially our protected areas and our wetlands.

Wetlands are not wastelands. The success stories of the wetlands of Boracay Island, Manila Bay Rehabilitation as well as the Pasig River are testament to that.
Wetlands, like water, play a vital role not only in our planet’s health but also in our life and wellbeing. Let us not downplay the role of wetlands in our lives, I strongly urge everyone to restore them and stop their loss because wetlands and water are inseparable.

Maraming salamat at mabuhay!