Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on experts and researchers in the Asia-Pacific region to work together in coming up with research-based solutions that would reduce the negative impact of invasive alien species (IAS) to biodiversity and the environment in general.

“I stand firm in promoting convergence of our research and development (R&D) efforts for a sustainable region-wide management of (IAS),” Cimatu said as he welcomed the delegates to the international conference on IAS management that took place in Manila from July 9 to 11.

“Let us continue with our pursuit for research-driven strategies and policies to effectively manage and conserve biodiversity for the good of humankind,” he added.

The three-day event called “IAS Conference 2019” has brought together IAS experts, researchers, dialogue partners, environment managers and other stakeholders from the Asia-Pacific region.

In his keynote speech read by DENR OIC Assistant Secretary for Staff Bureaus and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Ricardo Calderon, Cimatu underscored the need for a collective effort to tackle IAS that has been “invading and destroying nature’s ecological balance.”

“These IAS pose serious environmental concerns and are among the major threats to biodiversity,” Cimatu pointed out. “They cover a wide gamut of ecosystems from the terrestrial to aquatic environments, irreversibly impacting on biodiversity, agriculture, as well as food and water security.”

IAS are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines IAS as species whose introduction and spread from their place of origin threaten biological diversity. They are the second biggest cause of biodiversity loss all over the world, next only to habitat destruction.

Except for Antartica and the glaciated Greenland, the IAS affected 17 percent of the global land area which are highly predisposed to their infestation.

These environmental villains are found in many countries in Asia and the Pacific, including the Philippines, assailing the region’s key terrestrial, wetland, coastal, marine and estuarine ecosystems.

In agriculture, the IAS broadly applies to any non-indigenous weeds, pest, insects and other disease-causing agents that disrupt crop and livestock, among others.

In the freshwater environment, one common invasive species is the carp that originated from Europe but has insidiously multiplied and is now found in almost all parts of the globe. This alien invader is classified as the most invasive in the world, damaging marine life.

Among the most infamous IAS in the Philippines are the American bullfrog and the golden apple snail or golden kuhol, which have displaced indigenous species in natural habitats.

The IAS conference was organized by the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

According to ERDB Director Sofio Quintana, the conference served as an avenue to the technical experts to verify the list of IAS, including their potential threats and impacts.

The eradication of IAS, he said, was in line with “Target 9 of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity.”

Aside from the Philippines, other Asia-Pacific nations that presented their research papers during the conference were India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States and Vietnam.

The Philippines was represented by experts from the DENR-BMB, University of the Philippines-Los Baños, ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, and Food and Agriculture Organization-Philippines, among others. #