Children play on top of one of the floats during a parade coinciding with the National Horticultural Congress in Quezon City on Sunday. The parade featured floats bedecked with ornamental plants and flowers from participating establishments.  (MNS photo)

Children play on top of one of the floats during a parade coinciding with the National Horticultural Congress in Quezon City on Sunday. The parade featured floats bedecked with ornamental plants and flowers from participating establishments. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — The Philippines is restarting efforts to do an accounting of its natural resources through a World Bank-backed program that would help to unlock the potential of the sector for economic growth and address environmental issues – particularly in the mining industry.

The Philippines is one of the eight countries that are implementing WAVES, or Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services, World Bank Phil-WAVES task team leader Stefanie Sieber said in a briefing in Pasig City.

Other countries implementing the program are Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Madagascar and Rwanda.

WAVES is a global partnership that aims to promote sustainable development by ensuring that natural resources are mainstreamed in development planning and national economic accounts.

Citing a 2006 World Bank Application that looked at produced capital, intangible capital and natural capital, Sieber said natural capital is the most important for low income countries but is not measured.

“[WAVES will] help countries adopt and implement accounts that are relevant for policies,” she said. “You can think of many natural capital accounts we could produce, but the main purpose is really to do something that policy issues are suppressing in individual countries.”

Nothing new

But compiling a natural capital account (NCA) is nothing new to the Philippines since it has been done in the 1990s, National Economic and Development Authority Deputy Director-General Emmanuel Esguerra said in the same briefing.

However, it was not fully institutionalized due to the lack of budget as well as global standards in measuring natural resources, he said.

“Reasons alluded to was there was no standard methodology. There were also challenges to institutional capacity and resources for agencies that were supposed to take the responsibility for natural capital accounting,” Esguerra noted.

But early in 2014, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) was give a small funding by the government to restart environmental accounting – even prior to the approval of WAVES – interim assistant national statistician Raymundo Talento said.

In April 2014, the Phil-WAVES project was signed with the World Bank, and was officially launched in September.

From then on, the PSA has started gathering data for the NCA. Among the data being collated were gold, copper, nickel and chromium.

“These are the major metal minerals we have… Simply because of the data and time constraint… we’re not doing any extra survey but only relying on data from the NSO [National Statistics Office] and MGB [Mining and Geosciences Bureau],” Talento said.

“But what we notice is we need to do more labor since we discovered there are a lot of data sitting around in the bureau that needed to be processed,” he added.

The PSA hopes to come out with initial data after the first semester, after which it will hold several consultative forums with mining companies and the public, Talento noted.

A useful tool

Esguerra said the NCA is a useful tool for development planning that can serve as a guide to formulating plans and policies for sustainable development.

“If we’re able to measure changes in natural capital, that gives us an idea about sustainability of development and design policies in order to address those issues,” he said.

One issue that can be addressed with the program is in the mining industry. “I think it’s still going on and they have to do with sustainability of these operations,” Esguerra said.

Conflicting land and water use, particularly in Palawan and in Laguna Lake, can also be addressed through the Phil-WAVES, project consultant Elisea Gozun said.

But the acceptance of NCA in relation to policy development and economic planning will take some time to get traction, Esguerra said.

“It’s not easy to change behaviors or mindsets…

“If it took years for GDP (gross domestic product) accounting to take hold and to be appreciated and for a standard to be adopted across countries, now you’re introducing national capital accounts for a system that’s been there for generations, let alone getting budgets for this effort to be supported,” he added. (MNS)