Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on Southeast Asia’s top forestry officials to strike a balance between preserving the region’s limited forest resources and meeting the needs of its growing population.

“We need to strike a balance between meeting the demands of the people and stability of the environment,” Cimatu stressed in his message delivered by DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones during the 22nd meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF) held in Makati City on June 18.

Cimatu said that ASEAN forestry leaders “must transform into actions the strategic direction of sustainable forest management, competitiveness for foreign products, forest rectification, forest law and enforcement in government, and other forestry concerns.”

ASOF is a multinational body that aims to discuss policy matters, and formulate and implement regional cooperation activities and approaches in international and regional forestry fora.

Its basic objective is to formulate and implement regional cooperation activities to enhance the international competitiveness of ASEAN’s forestry products. It also aims to further strengthen the forestry arrangement in the region and joint positions in international fora.

According to Cimatu, forests are also integral to the pursuit of global sustainable development goals or SDGs, particularly SDG 6-Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 13-Climate Action, and SDG 15-Life on Land.

SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals, each with a list of broad based and interdependent targets. The SDGs were set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 with 2030 as the target year.

“Forests will lead to the achievement of multiple SDGs, including poverty alleviation, food security, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources,” Cimatu pointed out.

“Accordingly, SDGs require stronger commitment to restore, protect, and promote sustainable management of forests and other terrestrial ecosystems,” he added.

Meanwhile, DENR Assistant Secretary for Staff Bureaus and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Ricardo Calderon noted that while “ASEAN forestry continues to grow because of the integration and cooperation,” it is “somehow overshadowed by the growing concern on biodiversity conservation.”
Calderon said it should be emphasized that the forest provides a wide range of goods and services for the people and a major backbone as far as the economies of the ASEAN member-countries are concerned.

He likewise emphasized that deforestation and biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia is “a scenario which is not all discouraging,” as he expressed optimism for change and development in the future.

“This is a major challenge to ASOF, the ASOF leaders, and our dialogue partners to work harder and walk the extra mile towards achieving the strategic direction and action plans and operationalize these at a national level,” Calderon said. #