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PIA Press Release

Environment secretary calls for more R&D projects in ASEAN forestry

By M. Sucgang

Manila (August 4) -- Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said that scientific endeavors, coupled by the region's collective entrepreneurial skills, should be top priority in improving Southeast Asia's forestry-based industry under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as its forestry experts work harder to gain steady expansion into the world's wood market.

The pronouncement was made in a keynote speech read for him by DENR Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, at the "13th Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry" held in Makati City from July 26 to 31.

Secretary Paje said ASEAN should focus on getting several research and development outputs to become commercially viable products or services as ASEAN's forests is faced with the challenge of meeting the increasing demand for these goods and services by an ever growing world population, vis--vis a fixed or shrinking land base.

"This is where research and development comes into fore and why you experts came here," Secretary Paje said, as he cited that herbal and medicinal plants found in the region's forest can expand ASEAN's regional cooperation. He added that one process to achieve this is to promote the upgrading of capacity of all ASEAN member countries.

"Herbal medicine is the call of the times," says Regional Technical Director Manolito D. Ragub of the Ecosystems Research and Development Service, Region 8 who was among the participants of the ASEAN Meeting. The ASEAN delegates agreed that as a mega diverse area for plants and animal species and because herbal and traditional medicine is a way of life of the ASEAN peoples, the ASEAN countries should join forces to strengthen their unity in pursuing R& D in this area.

Among others, the meeting stressed the importance of lesser known forest tree species especially those with known value, elevating them to commercial status.

"The vital role played by lesser known forest tree species was discussed and the importance of bamboo species was likewise cited and given due emphasis in forestry development," RTD Ragub disclosed. He further said that "the ASEAN partners agreed that 20% of the areas for plantation establishment in 2010 should be devoted to bamboo."

Climate Change adaptation and mitigation strategies were discussed as well, as social forestry contributions to food security and biodiversity. This included the ASEAN countries' readiness to adopt REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and to link communities in Southeast Asia to voluntary carbon markets.

RTD Ragub said that the ASEAN forestry experts discussed the wisdom of adopting REDD or whether it is just a strategy used by developing nations to control forestry developments in less developed nations. (PIA-8/Marulen A. Zara) [top]

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