Roundtable Discussion on Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Urban Setting was conducted by the Biodiversity Management Bureau on May 29, 2018, at the Microtel by Wyndham, UP Technohub, Quezon City.

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It aimed to (1) raise awareness on the City Biodiversity Index and its importance in assessing biodiversity in urban setting; (2) provide a venue for sharing expert opinions on biodiversity in urban areas and efforts at mainstreaming into development planning and practice; and (3) initiate discussion towards a more comprehensive program on urban biodiversity.

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DENR Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Service, Corazon Davis, opened the RTD with her welcome remarks and stated the need to promote green spaces in urban areas. She said that “We should all look at ways on how we can efficiently and effectively utilize the services that the urban biodiversity provides. Moreover, we should start accelerating efforts and gear up towards a healthier environment”.

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Dr. Leonora P. Gonzales, a licensed environmental planner, gave the overview and the specific objectives of the RTD. She also stressed the need for the conservation, protection, and rehabilitation of biodiversity and emphasized that urban expansion exhausts the available resources, which eventually puts the ecosystem at risk.

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BMB OIC Assistant Director, For. Armida Andres, stressed that “We are not conserving biodiversity for the biodiversity alone but also for the ecosystem services they provide.” She also reiterated the integration of biodiversity conservation in the local land use, planning, and development programs and projects of the LGUs.

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Lectures on City Biodiversity Index (CBI) and Procedures in the Conduct of Assessment of Urban Biodiversity
were provided by Dr. Mary Jean Caleda (left) and EnP Argean S. Guiaya (right).

Dr. Caleda, mentioned that CBI is a self-assessment tool for cities to evaluate and monitor the progress of their biodiversity conservation efforts against their own individual baselines. She also stated that there are efforts in the Philippines to localize the CBI. EnP Guiaya reiterated that the guidelines will provide DENR offices with the standards/procedures in assisting local government units in assessing the condition of their existing urban biodiversity to be able to update bio-physical profiles and incorporate the assessment results in the CLUP, Zoning Ordinance, CDP and other development plans and programs of the LGUs.

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Initiatives on urban greening and biodiversity in various cities in Metro Manila, viz. Pasig City, Quezon City, and Makati City, were also presented by LGUs representatives Mr. Aaron Acedillo, For. Amalia Nalangan, and Mr. Louis John Angelo Reaño (from left to right). Generally, the presentations discussed the incorporation of green architectural designs, establishment of green recreational areas in all cities, and the role of the youth in the protection and conservation of biodiversity.

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EnP Delia Josef, member of the Board of Directors for Alliance for Safe, Sustainable, and Resilient Environment (ASSURE), discussed about the Public Parks and Open Spaces. She mentioned that the guidelines is an advocacy tool to encourage the cities and towns to provide adequate and better planned, designed, developed and managed public parks and open spaces. Further, this will assist local communities, local government units (LGUs), real estate developers, and planners in both the private and public sectors in the planning, design and development of sustainable public open spaces that meet the leisure, recreation and sport needs of Philippine towns and cities.

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EnP Julia Nebrija, Project Manager of the Green, Green, Green Program of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), facilitated the discussion of the said program. EnP Nebrija said that the Program is a fund assistance that aims to make the country's 145 cities more livable and sustainable through the development of public open spaces. She mentioned that the Green, Green, Green Program will help city governments create forest parks, botanical gardens, improve livability of urban areas and transform streetscapes through installation of eco-friendly street furniture, fixtures, and shading. She also encouraged the LGUs to submit their proposals because the national government allotted Php 2.5 billion for this program.

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The second half of the RTD covered an open forum where questions from the participants were raised. (From left to right: EnP Jean Caleda, Ms. Amalia Nalanga, EnP Delia Josef, EnP Julia Nebrija, Mr. Louis John Angelo Reaño, Mr. Aaron Acedillo, and Asst. Dir. Armida Andres).

Key points that were emphasized included the importance of engaging academic and research institutions in the floral and faunal assessment, the consideration of the idea of clustering of settlements in urban areas or metropolitanization, the call to LGUs to craft their own biodiversity action plan that mirrors the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), and the establishment of connectivity through corridors among fragmented plots.

Some of the challenges raised were the integration, and mainstreaming of biodiversity in the plans and programs of LGUs and other institutions, the transformation of streetscapes and walkways to support pedestrian activities like cycling was also viewed as an emerging challenge for the LGUs.

Among the suggested resolutions include the creation of Urban Biodiversity Network, development of protocol for urban biodiversity assessment, and baselining for biodiversity in urban areas.