Table 2 shows that, Philippines has some 1437 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 49.5% are endemic, meaning they exist in no other country, and 10.7% are threatened.
A wide variety of the planet’s animal species call the Philippines home. With so much biological diversity, the country is also home to a large number of threatened animal species. As of November 20, 2018, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), has declared 418 animal species in the Philippines to be threatened: meaning they are either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, according to the IUCN red list criteria. Below lists the top 5 critically endangered animals in the Philippines:
1. Philippine Eagle
Also called the monkey-eating eagle, is native to the southern Philippines. It is characterized by a brown and white feather pattern and bushy crest, and is believed to be one of the largest and most powerful birds on Earth. The IUCN has the Philippine eagle on its red list of critically endangered animals due to deforestation, mining, and pollution. In 1988, it was added to the list of animals in threat of extinction. In the 1990s it was classified as critically endangered. There are very few of these eagles left. Their global population has been steady declining for the past 56 years. Various legislations have been passed protecting the Philippine eagle, but such laws have been poorly enforced, thus the continued decline in the eagle’s numbers.
2. Philippine Freshwater Crocodile
Locally known as Mindoro crocodiles, they are endemic in the Philippines. The Philippine freshwater crocodile is quite small compared to other crocodiles, growing to about four and a half to five feet long and weighing approximately 15 kg. It is reported that as of September 2011, there are only 250 of them left in the country. The Philippine freshwater crocodile is currently on the IUCN red list and is classified as a critically endangered species. Population trend estimates say that the numbers of this species is continuing to decline. Experts attribute illegal hunting and dynamite fishing to the decline of the Philippine freshwater crocodile. One of the threats to this species include excessive exploitation for commercial use, but the biggest threat it faces to date is the massive clearing of rainforests that serve as the crocodile’s natural habitat. The forests are cleared to be converted into farmlands. Another threat comes from the locals themselves, who illegally hunt the crocodiles.
Also known as the Mindoro dwarf buffalo, the Tamaraw is the only known bovine that is indigenous to the Philippines. Until the 20th century, the original habitat of this species was essentially intact and unharmed. They were once found all over Mindoro Island, from the plains up to the mountains. But now the population has been reduced to about 200, with many being carefully bred in captivity. Another critically endangered animal according to the IUCN, the main causes of the Tamaraw being on the list of endangered animals in the Philippines are illegal hunting, logging, and residential land clearing.
4. Walden’s Hornbill
Locally called a Kalaw, it is also known as the Visayan Wrinkled Hornbill. The Kalaw is endemic to the Philippine islands of Panay and Negros, although it can also be found in other regions of the country such as Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao. Excessive hunting and illegal logging caused the disappearance of this species in the areas of Negros and Guimaras. Because of that, it has been included in the IUCN Red List of critically endangered species in the country.
5. Visayan Warty Pig
This land mammal is also in the IUCN’s list of critically endangered species in the Philippines. Once ubiquitous in the central Philippines, especially in the island of Cebu, the pig can now only be found on two islands: Panay and Negros. Some experts believe that a small herd may still be located in the island of Masbate although it is not confirmed. The disappearance of this species on the island of Cebu was not only brought about by illegal hunting and logging but also agricultural land clearing. The animal’s natural habitats were turned into rice fields to accommodate the growing demand for crops in the region. Now, small population concentrations of this species are bred in captivity. Some still live in the wild, although they are very rare, which is why not much is understood about the mammal’s natural behavior.
Impacts of Habitat Destruction in the Philippines
According to David Hooper (2005), the effects of biodiversity were not severe; however new study suggests that future species extinction has a huge impact on reducing production of plants as global warming and pollution. The Philippine forests are in a very negative and alarming condition. Data from Conservation International (2013) research show that only about 7% of our original forests and merely 3% in lowland areas are left. Forest degradation does not only affect the trees, vegetation, and the land area, wherein it muddles the species that are dependent on these forests for habitat, food, reproduction, and growth, as their count and variability are also threatened.
In the meantime, lack of pure water supply has also been a major concern in the Philippines. According to Anonuevo and Miel (2013), Edgar C. Lopez, President of the Philippine Waterworks Association, warns that in the next 10 years, the Philippines will be facing a water crisis if new water sources are not developed to meet the growing demand. Lopez added that the cities that will be experiencing severe water insufficiency by 2025 are Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, and Angeles. Kleinwort Benson Investors (2014) reports that only less than 1% of the world’s water can be utilized and despite this very small number, water supply is continuously jeopardized by pollution and the depletion of aquifers and watersheds. Moreover, from year 1951-2010, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) have recorded an increase of 0.648°C or an average increase of 0.0108°C per year. Also, PAGASA’s analysis of trends of tropical cyclone occurrence show that the number of tropical cyclones that form and/or cross the Philippine Area of Responsibility averages 20. PAGASA added that “there’s a slight increase in the number of tropical cyclones with maximum sustained winds of greater than 150kph and above being exhibited during El Nino event”. This resulted to the most evident issue involving unsustainable biodiversity in the Philippines which is the unstable climate.
Scientists today are coming up with different courses of action that would alleviate the current situation of our forests and endangered species, and minimize the effects of such problems on humanity and ecology due to the very alarming and devastating effects of animal extinction and loss of biodiversity,. According to McGinley (2014), one way to make sure that the network of protected areas effectively conserves biodiversity is by the means of the conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). These KBAs, as described by the author, are biological areas that need to be conserved and areas that encompass endangered species that require global conservation concerns. In the Philippines, scientists and environmentalists are already in the process of identifying and tracing KBAs in the entire country, McGinley said. The author also added that this project is a modification of the broad-scale primacies identified during the 2000 Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Priority-Setting Process.
Other than the identification of KBAs, different environmental groups have also come up with conservation activities like the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program in Palawan that helps lessen the stealing of the eggs of the cockatoo, Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation that advocates the protection of Cebu’s last few hectares of forests and the conservation of the Cebu flower-pecker, and the Tamaraw Conservation Program that is able to reproduce not less than 30 tamaraws per year since 2000 according to the researchers of such program. All these groups may have different ways and strategies in being able to put their objectives into action but they surely have one goal, and that is to conserve the beautiful but endangered species of the Philippine forests.
The drastic growth of population in Philippines with an annual change of 1.5% as of 2017 (Philippine Statistic Authority, 2017) aggravates the loss of habitats, use of chemical pesticides, and other threats to the biodiversity agriculture due to the increase in demand for food and expansion of agricultural areas. According to the ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook that if the threats such as habitat fragmentation, clearing for agriculture, and infrastructure and housing development inflate, an average annual rate loss of 1.26% or atleast 5,261.62 square kilometers of forest area loss every year will continue.
According to DENR-FMB (Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Forest Management Bureau) that from 2011 Philippine Forest Statistics establish 24% what remains and with lows falling as badly as 20% in the late 1990’s. Regardless of the slight improvement over the past decade, the results still illustrate a severe drop from 70% at the start of the 20th century.
Cardinale, et.al. (2012) states that ,”loss of biological diversity due to species extinctions is going to have major impacts on our planet, and we better prepare ourselves to deal with them. These extinctions may well rank as one of the top five drivers of global change”. Together with other scientists from nine countries, the study “Biodiversity Loss and Its Impact on Humanity” concluded that such problem is already as demoralizing as climate change and air pollution. It also exposed vital issues that would be affected by high extinction rates and unsustainable biodiversity such as insufficient food production, scarcity of pure water supply, and unstable climate. Unfortunately, all three issues are already very evident and are huge concerns in the Philippines today.
Philippine Environmental Laws
The Philippine government implemented many norms and laws regarding habitat destruction and on the consequences in destroying the environment. These laws are implemented for the Filipinos to follow in order to preserve and conserve the ecosystem the Philippines have. The Filipinos need to observe and follow the following laws and norms to mitigate habitat destruction:
• Republic Act No. 9147 – AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE CONSERVATION AND PROTECTION OF WILDLIFE RESOURCES AND THEIR HABITATS, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
• Republic Act No. 7586 – AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF NATIONAL INTEGRATED PROTECTED AREAS SYSTEM, DEFINING ITS SCOPE AND COVERAGE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
The Relationship of Environmental and Economic Progress
Table 3. Area Reforested by Sector: 1997-2017 (In Hectare)
In reference to the Philippine Forestry Statistics 2017, the grand total rate of reforesation in the Philippines has fluctuated since 1997-2017; wherein in 1999-2000, it decreased from 42,157 to 27,632 hectares. Additionally, during 2010-2015, it increased from 36,877 to 360,357 hectares. However, it repeatedly decreased during 2016 and 2017. The average decrease of the grand total rate of reforestation is 6812.55 hectares.
The biodiversity in the ASEAN region, which is home to the “mega-diverse countries” of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, will be gradually destroyed by 2100 if the destruction of the environment continues unabated, a recently launched report by an intergovernmental organization revealed. The second edition of the ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook states that by 2100, 70-90% of habitats and 13-42% of species is poised to lose in the region. The ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) released the report on the sidelines of the inauguration of its new headquarters on July 29 in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). According to Roy Cimatu, Environment Secretary, the various ecological services we get from the environment speak of our dependence on biodiversity – medicines, materials for our shelters, food, sites for our recreation, and the peace that Mother Nature offers.
Table 4. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) And Gross Value Added (GVA) in Forestry : 1998-2017 (In million PHP)
The Gross Domestic Product in forestry has increased evidently from 1998-2017. Recently, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 2017, the economic growth of some major sub-industries has increased such as manufacturing (8.4%), agriculture and forestry (4.0%), mining and quarrying (3.7%), real estate, renting, and business activities (7.5%), and construction (5.3%). The relationship of economic growth and environmental degradation is an important component of a sustainable development. The level of trade impartiality, industrial expansion, and an ASEAN member generates a positive impact in reducing environmental degradation.
According to the National Statistical Coordination Board, in 1972 a Conference on Human Environment was hosted by the United Nations with an objective to identify possible links between the environment and development as part of the effort to address environmental problems. In result, different alternative environment strategies were developed; however, due to traditional economic development policies that does not conform to environmental dispute, abrupt problems still occur. During 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) or the Brundtland Commission was formed by the United Nations that aims to examine possible solutions to environment and development problems. The study concluded that development should meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generation.