MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asia Development Bank (ADB) will provide a $1.5 million grant for environmentalists to work with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to draw up a plan to protect the region's seas and rainforests which are being damaged at an alarming rate.
The region is home to the Coral Triangle, which has the highest marine biodiversity in the world, as well as the Heart of Borneo, rainforests covering 22 million hectares that are some of the last refuges for orangutans, Asian elephants, and Sumatran rhinos.
Each year logging, mining and farming destroys millions of hectares of forests, including those supposedly legally protected, threatening the extinction of a wide range of species.
Overfishing and destructive fishing methods including the use of cyanide and dynamite have destroyed large coral areas and depleted marine resources. Global warming may hasten the damage.
"The degradation threatens millions of people who rely on the natural resources for their livelihoods," said Urooj Malik, Director of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources of ADB's Southeast Asia Department. "Urgent attention is needed to stop the deforestation and damage to the marine environment."
The ADB grant will provide funding for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature to undertake an environmental and socio-economic profile of the region, GIS (geographic information system) mapping and stakeholder consultations in the four countries that would lead to the development of a long-term program to establish regional environmental management policies and strategies to strengthen the sustainable management of natural resources.
The grant will also allow the countries to assess policies and institutional capabilities in managing natural resources, address cross-border environmental issues such as trans-boundary haze pollution to determine requirements for strengthening institutional and coordination mechanisms, and implement policies through setting of minimum standards, monitoring and self regulation. The program will establish a framework for regional cooperation in managing natural resources and biodiversity as well as develop joint investment projects in forestry, fishing, minerals, and energy.
The program will then work with the four governments, donors, private sector and NGOs to foster support for the program and forge partnerships for action.
The four governments will each contribute $50,000 of in-kind support to complete the required funding for the program. It is being carried out under the umbrella of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), an initiative launched in 1994 to hasten, through regional cooperation, the development of the economy of Brunei Darussalam and sub-national areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.