The Philippines is identified as one of the world’s 17 most biologically rich countries. Its terrestrial and marine habitats are characterized by high endemism – nearly half of all its flora and fauna are unique to the 7,641 islands – and new species continue to be discovered. The Philippines has 228 recognized Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) which are home to 855 globally important species of plants, corals, molluscs, elasmobranchs, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. In addition, the country’s agricultural ecosystem is also noteworthy. The Philippines is part of the center of diversity of rice, coconut, mung bean, taro and yam, as well as the center of origin and diversity of bananas in Southeast Asia .
However, the Philippines is also a hotspot of biodiversity loss, ranking among the top ten countries in the world with the largest number of species threatened with extinction , . In 2004, the List of Terrestrial Threatened Species and their Categories was established under the Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2004-15 issued by the Secretary of the DENR, which listed 145 threatened wildlife species .
In 2007, the DENR established the National List of Threatened Philippine Plants and their Categories through DAO No. 2007-01, with the expert assistance of the Philippine Plant Conservation Committee (PPCC). A total of 526 threatened plants were included in the list. Following the reconstitution of the PPCC in 2013, the list was updated, and a total of 984 plant species were identified as threatened, showing a significant increase in the number of threatened plants. This increase in threatened species was a cause for alarm, as from the updated list, 75.7% or 737 species were endemic to the Philippines, meaning they occur nowhere else in the world .
The Philippines derives large benefits from biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides. In particular, an important role is played by watersheds, river basins, coastal and marine areas in the environment and in society as a source of food and livelihood (supporting fisheries, recreation and tourism and many other activities) .
The Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) 2015-2028  identified the five main pressures on biodiversity in the Philippines as habitat loss, over-exploitation, invasive alien species, pollution and climate change.
Habitat loss has been attributed to indiscriminate logging activities which continue to persist; overlapping and conflicting land uses such as mining claims and rights with protected areas, ancestral domains and planned conservation areas; and rapid population growth which contributes to land conversion for human settlements.
Over-exploitation of resources is manifested through over-harvesting of forest resources, illegal fishing and over-fishing, illegal wildlife trading, and intensive agrochemical use.
Invasive alien species have taken a toll on biodiversity. Some fish species and aquatic plants have had a negative impact on wetland biodiversity; and some plants have invaded agricultural areas and natural forest. These situations have led to competition with native species and subsequent declines in their populations.
Pollution (land, air, and water) has also contributed to the degradation of biodiversity. Land and ocean-based sources of solid and liquid wastes have affected habitat conditions that have resulted to lower food production and decline in species populations, and have undermined tourism-based activities, among others.
Several direct impacts of climate change have been identified, among them are changes in the timing of biological events, changes in species distribution and behaviour in plants and animals, and increased frequency of pests and diseases. As an archipelagic country located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is exposed to sea level rise, warmer seas and stronger storms that result from climate change. Climate change ultimately increases the vulnerability of species to extinction and contributes to potential losses of net productivity of ecosystems .
Key policies and governance approach
The Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) 2015-2028  serves as the country’s roadmap to biodiversity conservation, and has the vision “By 2028, biodiversity is restored and rehabilitated, valued, effectively managed and secured, maintaining ecosystem services to sustain healthy, resilient Filipino communities and delivering benefits to all.”
The PBSAP identifies nine direct and enabling interventions to address and reduce the five major pressures on biodiversity. These actions are translated into national targets with respective indicators that conform to the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The direct program interventions are: (i) restoration of ecosystem functions; (ii) promotion of biodiversity-friendly livelihoods; and (iii) strengthening law enforcement. These are actions when implemented will result into concrete physical changes in the KBAs.
Enabling or supporting program interventions that were identified are: (i) Communication, Education and Public Awareness; (ii) capacity development for biodiversity management; (iii) biodiversity conservation-related research; (iv) strengthening policy for biodiversity conservation; (v) promotion of biodiversity-friendly technology; and (vi) resource mobilization. These are interventions when implemented individually or together with other actions, may amplify the impacts of the direct interventions thus, contribute to the achievement of identified targets.
In addition, other polices and laws contributing to biodiversity conservation in the Philippines include the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 (RA 9147); Revised Forestry Code of 1975 (PD 705); National Greening Program (EO 26, s. 2011); Sustainable Forest Management (EO 318, s. 2004); and the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 (RA 7586), among others.
Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 aims to conserve and protect wildlife species and their habitats. It also establishes the Wildlife Management Fund; requires the establishment of National Wildlife Research Centers and Wildlife Rescue Centers; and mandates the creation of Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Units and the deputation/designation of Wildlife Enforcement Officers who shall have the full authority to seize illegally traded wildlife and to arrest violators of the Act in conformity with existing laws, rules and regulations on arrest and detention. The Act is also the enabling legislation for the implementation of the rules and regulations of CITES in the country .
Successes and remaining challenges
According to the 6th National Report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, in which the country measured its progress towards achieving the PBSAP, the country, as of 2018, is on track to achieve fifteen out of its twenty national targets by 2028 .
In 2020 alone, fourteen policies were approved by the DENR Secretary and/or the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director and an additional 39 were drafted in line with the PBSAP’s goal aimed at strengthening the country’s policies and institutions for biodiversity conservation. Government projects aimed at implementing the targets of PBSAP are on-going. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Government to postpone some minor projects, some of the targeted activities such as enhanced communication, education and public awareness were still implemented through continuous communication with DENR Field Offices and other stakeholders .
In 2020, biodiversity finance initiatives allowed the Government to utilize PhP 632M worth of grants that contribute to the implementation of the PBSAP . For effective implementation, at least PhP 24 billion (US$530 million) is required annually. Yet, the current level of spending on biodiversity is only at PhP 5 billion (US$110 million) per year, which leaves an 80% financing gap. Private sector investment in biodiversity conservation is one big opportunity to fill this gap .
In addition to financial constraints, remaining challenges for the Philippines regarding implementation of the PBSAP include weak data management and a lack of coordination between relevant government agencies.
Initiatives and Development Plans
Various programmes and initiatives have been developed based on the PBSAP framework, including: (i) an integrated approach to the management of major biodiversity corridors in the Philippines; (ii) maintaining ecosystem flows, mainstreaming biodiversity and restoring degraded forestlands and enhancing carbon stocks through an integrated landscape approach; (iii) sustainable financing of the Philippines protected area (PA) system; (iv) capacity building for ratification and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing in the Philippines; (v) combating environmental organised crime in the Philippines; (vi) carbon-resilient, low-carbon, and sustainable cities; (vii) enabling investments in natural capital: strengthening fisheries value chains, financial monitoring and evaluation capacity in the Coral Triangle; (viii) implementation of Sulu Celebes Seas Large Marine Ecosystems Regional and National Strategic Action Plans; (ix) exploration of collaborative conservation framework in line with MARPOL and CBD in the East Asian Seas; (x) implementation of Polychlorinated Biphenyl management programmes for electric cooperatives and safe e-wastes management; and (xi) eliminating the use of persistent organic pollutants in the Philippines through mainstreaming into the relevant planning, programming, and regulatory processes, and the development of safer substitutes .
- Ensure the commitment of all government agencies and other stakeholders and their compliance with the implementation of the PBSAP.
- Improve coordination between relevant government agencies.
- Ensure the mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation into the planning and budgeting process of national government agencies and local government units, as well as into national socio-economic development plans.
- Educate the public on biodiversity conservation and communicate and build awareness about the CBD, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets as well as the progress of their implementation in the Philippines.
- Require the support or assistance of any department, bureau, agency or office of the government.
- Encourage private sector investment in biodiversity conservation.
 Department of Environment and Natural Resources (2019). Sixth National Report Published on the Clearing-House Mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity. [Online]. Available: https://chm.cbd.int/database/record?documentID=243371.
 Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). (2016). Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2015-2028): Bringing Resilience to Filipino Communities. C. Cabrido (Ed.). Quezon City, Philippines: BMB-DENR, United Nations Development Programme – Global Environment Facility, Foundation for the Philippine Environment.
 DENR-BMB (2020). DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES BIODIVERSITY MANAGEMENT BUREAU 2020 ANNUAL REPORT. [Online]. Available: https://bmb.gov.ph/index.php/resources/downloadables/publications/reports/.
 BIOFIN (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.biofin.org/philippines.