Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje is pushing for the ratification of an international treaty that would allow the country to reap the benefits of its own genetic resources.


The treaty, called Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, outlines measures on how countries can access genetic resources and share the benefits of the resources within the country of origin.


At the hearing of the Senate committee on foreign relations on Thursday, Paje told senators that the Philippine accession to the Nagoya Protocol is a must in order to protect the nation’s rich biodiversity from the threat of biopiracy.


“Acceding to the protocol would translate to directly benefitting not only the country, but local communities who use and care for our biological resources,” Paje said.


Dubbed as one of the most important multilateral environmental treaties recently adopted, the Nagoya Protocol entered into force on October 12, 2014 or four years after its adoption. However, the Philippines have yet to ratify and accede to the treaty.


Paje said the protocol could be the country’s shield against biopiracy, or the commercial exploitation or monopolization of biological or genetic material like medicinal plant extracts, usually without compensating the indigenous peoples or countries from which the material or relevant knowledge is obtained.


He said the government needs to address the issue of biopiracy, where other parties unlawfully use biological and genetic resources “that have been with us for a long time but we are either not aware of or informed about it.”


“The Nagoya Protocol would require countries using the Philippines’ biological and genetic resources to comply with our own national measures on access and benefit-sharing,” Paje explained.


He added: “Without our accession, we cannot avail of its international tracking and monitoring mechanisms by which we can track the use of our resources.”


Paje cited a number of resources found in the country but were “taken” by researchers, such as medicinal plants from Coron in Palawan, soil samples from Panay Island, and mollusk species from Balicasag Island in Bohol.


Biopiracy, he added, also covers the documentation without due compensation of associated traditional knowledge owned or practiced by indigenous peoples with resources in their environment.


Accession to the Nagoya Protocol would strengthen compliance by other countries that use such genetic resources (GRs) and their associated traditional knowledge (ATK) to existing Philippine laws such as Executive Order No. 247 issued in 1995, and Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.


It would enable the Philippines to claim its rightful share in benefits from a wider range of activities related to GRs and ATK, such as tracking and monitoring research being done on them before and during their commercialization. These indigenous resources would also get the recognition and respect they deserve when utilized abroad and while products using them are being developed.


The protocol also puts local and foreign researchers on equal footing while collaborating on studies using the country’s resources; and clarifies the rights of the country, researchers, and the IP and local communities, as well as secure benefits especially on new uses of traded commodities.

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy


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