Alec Baldwin campaigns to protect peatlands

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Nov 15 2020 06:14 AM

MANILA -- Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin recently made a call to protect peatlands around the world because “peatlands matter.” 

“Peatlands are crucial to fight climate change,” he emphasized.

Back in 2017, Baldwin made a video address at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany and talked about championing climate and development goals to achieve a sustainable and equitable world.

The actor cited the indigenous people who are safeguarding many of the world’s standing forests as he called on to empower them with rights.

Recently, Baldwin stressed the importance of preserving and conserving peatlands in an AVP shown before a media conference to mark the partnership of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and PLDT-Smart for the environment protection of the Caimpugan Peatlands and the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS).

“Peatlands are large, open forests and swamps that can be found all over the world,” Baldwin said. “They matter for the planet because they actually store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests together, while covering less than three percent of the land’s surface.”

However, Baldwin lamented how peatlands are being degraded and lost in a dramatic pace to logging, drainage, agriculture and burning.

“When peatlands are destroyed, they release massive amounts of greenhouse gases,” Baldwin informed. “And the unique, often endangered plants and animals that they house are lost, as well.

“Peatlands also matter for people because smoke released from peatlands fires is toxic and has the worst impact in the most vulnerable groups – our children and the elderly. We must protect peatlands because peatlands matter.”

On the local front, educating the public about peatlands was started back in the '90s by the government sector. Sadly, not too many people are aware of peatlands and how they need to be preserved.

But last July, the DENR, represented by Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent director of BMB (Biodiversity Management Bureau) Ricardo Calderon and DENR-Caraga regional executive director Hadja Didaw Piang-Brahim, signed a memorandum of agreement with PLDT Group chief sustainability officer Chaye Cabal-Revilla.

The three-year extendable project to be implemented by PLDT-Smart aims to strengthen and support the AMWS-Protected Area Management Office and other concerned DENR offices in implementing peatland conservation and management strategies under the AMWS Management Plan.

Piang-Brahim maintained the collaboration between DENR and PLDT-Smart is very timely. “It opens doors of opportunities to the wetland-dependent communities in this time of the pandemic. The partnership aims to engage these communities in various, sustainable, bio-diversity friendly livelihood programs for peatland conservation.”

Biologist and ecologist Martha Rojas Urrego, secretary general of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, lauded the recent peatland partnership of the government, particularly DENR and PLDT-Smart.

The partnership will focus on the protection, conservation and restoration of the Caimpugan Peatlands in Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, a wetland of international importance designated under the convention on wetlands.

“The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, with its 171 contracting parties, provides the global framework for the conservation and sustainable use of all wetlands,” she added.

“This peatland is one of the Philippines’ most vital natural resources in the fight to combat climate change,” Urrego said.
“Peatlands cover only 3 percent of the earth’s surface, but they store 30 percent of carbon worldwide, making them the most effective carbon stock on the planet and thus, the most potent nature-based solution to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“When peatlands are drained or burned, the carbon which was stored for thousands of years is released into the atmosphere, therefore contributing to further global warming. This is why we must protect and restore these critical ecosystems.”

The recent scientific assessments are truly alarming. “They have concluded that we have lost 87 percent of the global area of wetlands, including lakes, rivers, marshes, mangroves, coral reefs and peatlands.

“Besides wetlands’ capacity to store carbon, they also provide us with other major benefits, including clean water, food, the protection of coasts from extreme weather events and as the home to 40 percent of global bio-diversity.”

Yet, we lose wetlands three times faster than forests. “They are the most valuable ecosystems on the planet and at the same time, the most threatened,” she lamented.

Land transformation for agriculture is the main drivers of wetlands lost, according to Urrego. “In recent times, fires within peatlands have become a major issue in Southeast Asia. To reverse this trend, we must recognize the critical role of wetlands, including peatlands, and the role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as the central role in achieving the sustainable development goals.”

Urrego said the partnership is an example of how both the government and the private sector can work together using innovative solutions and modern technology.

“We must work together to conserve and restore these critical ecosystems. This partnership will scale up the conservation and preservation of wetlands for a better future for nature and people in the Philippines.”

Meanwhile, Revilla, who is an avowed environment warrior and chief sustainability officer of PLDT-Smart, said the recent partnership is an important initiative for them.

“We need to have concrete plans and programs to fight climate change and protect our environment, as this well affect not just the business but even our own existence,” she said. 

“We will work together to help protect and conserve the Caimpugan peatlands. We will create public awareness on the conservation of our peatlands. Apart from our counterpart contribution of cash for three years, we will contribute our expertise by employing digital solutions to help protect our peatlands.”

Revilla noted Manila is fortunate to have been spared the wrath of the recent super-typhoon Rolly. “We can help prevent the next devastation that can save many lives and communities by taking better care of our environment and of each other,” Revilla said.