natural resource study
The southeast Asian islands of the Philippines are rich in natural resources, but are often underdeveloped due to a combination unequal access, waves of natural disaster, growing population and high food prices. To promote sustainable development and economical use of resources, the World Bank has approved a grant of $700,615 for a natural resource study of the Philippines.

The project, called Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystems (Phil-WAVES), aims to promote the integration of sustainable development policies into Philippine domestic programs. Phil-WAVES will employ the System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), an internationally agreed upon set of standards for evaluating the environment and its relationship with the economy, to analyze mineral and mangrove resources.

The data will be analyzed by the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) to develop macroeconomic indicators to assist in the valuation of important natural resources and the role they play in the country’s GDP.

The agriculture, forestry and fishery industries made up 11.2 percent of the Philippine’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, and employed almost a third of the country’s population. However, poverty rates in these sectors are high. According to data from the PSA, 36.7 percent were living in poverty in 2009.

“Having sufficient data on natural resources and analyzing this properly is crucial to making decisions that will help the country reach the twin objectives of ending extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity,” said Mr. Motoo Konishi, the World Bank Philippines Country Director. “We are optimistic that Phil-WAVES will help us better appreciate the interactions between the economy and the environment.”

Phil-WAVES aims to function in an inclusive, pro-poor manner, addressing the important natural resources of minerals and mangroves in particular due to their key role in the environment and economy. This will be supported by a second grant of $800,000 also supported by the World Bank, which will focus on implementing the data analysis into policy and indicators from the information gathered about mangroves and mining.

Mangroves, or various types of trees and shrubs that grow in salty, coastal regions in the tropics, are among the world’s most severely threatened and undervalued ecosystems. The tropical forests are integral in providing environmental stabilization, essential proteins and an important income source. Mangroves are also important in protecting coastal regions from intense storms, an aspect that was highlighted following the strike of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2009. To restore and preserve mangrove habitats, a national account and indicators will be developed.

The Philippine mining sector is also seeking reforms and sustainable development. Executive Order 79, a policy seeking to improve environmental mining standards and revenue sharing policies, will use the WAVE study as a tool for examining cost-benefit factors and resource analysis.

Ultimately, the Phil-WAVES project aims to implement systems of natural capital accounting as part of the WAVES global partnership. Natural capital accounting (NCA) is looking at underlying wealth factors and taking those aspects of a country’s economy into long term growth and development policies. The Philippines is one of the primary countries involved in the WAVES global partnership, which promotes the integration of NCA over the course of five years.

The Phil-WAVES grant comes at an important time for the Philippines government as it seeks to grow and develop transparently and sustainably.

“The Philippines faces the pressures of a growing population, rapid urbanization and competing land uses — all of which contribute to the deterioration of natural resources,” said Stefanie Sieber, project task leader and World Bank Environmental Economist for East Asia and the Pacific. “Amidst these pressures, Phil-WAVES will guide the Philippines in arriving at policies that will promote the sustainable management of its natural resources.”

– Julia Thomas

Sources: UN Statistics Division, Waves Partnership, The World Bank, Zoological society of London
Photo: The Paolo Valencia