With a conference on “Operationalizing REDD+ Safeguards in Southeast Asia and the Pacific,” held recently in Subic Bay Freeport, stakeholders from the Philippines and countries of the Asia-Pacific region made an important step toward safeguarding forests and the rights of indigenous communities and peoples.
The conference was organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Climate Change Commission (CCC).
The conference took place within the framework of the international climate and forest protection mechanism “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD+) with cost-effective conservation, sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of carbon stocks.
The conference was opened by NCIP Commissioner Dionesia O. Banua, who pointed out that most of the forest areas in the Philippines are in ancestral domains.
DENR-Forest Management Bureau Assistant Director Mayumi Quintos-Natividad emphasized that the conference provided a relevant opportunity for sustainable development in the Philippines.
NCIP Executive Director Marlea Muñez said the event was a landmark for implementing the Philippine National REDD-Plus Strategy, an integral part of the National Climate Change Action Plan and a contribution of the Philippines to safeguard the world’s forests and climate, led by the DENR and CCC.
National experts from government agencies, non-governmental organizations and academe along with experts from Germany, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Vietnam, Fiji and the Pacific Islands, Mongolia and India exchanged insights on how to avoid unintended social and environmental risks that may arise due to REDD+, how to strengthen governance and how to achieve “co-benefits” for biodiversity conservation and improved livelihood.
A field trip to the ancestral domain of the Aeta Ambala tribe at Mount Santa Rita gave an additional practical example of a particularly successful conservation agreement—the joint management agreement with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority that combines effective participation, benefit-sharing mechanisms and transparent governance.
“Parties have to provide information on how they address safeguards before they can receive results-based payments from REDD+,” lawyer Alaya de Leon from the Ateneo School of Government said, summarizing the current challenge for countries emerging from the recent decisions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
With the decision to link finance to safeguards, there is a clear direction for countries to go for compliance.
REDD+ was internationally adopted in 2007, and in 2010, the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC decided on related safeguards with the need to take local livelihoods and ecological aspects explicitly into account to fully benefit from REDD+ measures without negative impacts.
These safeguards need to be converted into national frameworks by the implementing countries. At the same time, this challenge gives early adopters like the Philippines the opportunity to shape the ongoing international discussion through exemplary solutions.
The conference focused on all three key aspects of the current debate with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent as a social safeguard; finance, benefit sharing and anti-corruption as governance safeguards; and biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services as an environmental safeguard.
All participants agreed to collaborate further on exchanging experiences and strengthening capacities of countries in the region for compliance with international standards to reap the benefits of REDD+.
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