Should the Philippines tap into the Malampaya Fund to support biodiversity conservation?
This was one of the central topics discussed during the 29th Annual Open Debate Tournament at the University of the Philippines-Diliman last week.
The debate, held by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) and the UP Pi Sigma Fraternity, discussed the feasibility of using the Malampaya Fund as a source of supplemental funding for biodiversity conservation; promoting sustainable tourism as an alternative to mining in key biodiversity areas, and the Senate’s ratification of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
UNDP Country Director Titon Mitra in his opening remarks asked how the country’s assets could be conserved and sustainably exploited.
Mitra also said that the debate is a good opportunity for Filipino leaders to “extract some gems” in approaching the issues.
Department of Energy Director for Legal Services Arthus Tenazas said the Malampaya Fund, meant for the development and exploitation of indigenous energy resources, has over P200 billion in its coffers as of end-June.
In actual practice, Tenazas said exploration and development of energy resources are being financed by private and local investment, resulting in the accumulation of the fund.
“This is [the] reason why this fund has accumulated to this huge amount. And it has been a long standing issue as to which beneficial use of this fund will be undertaken,” he said.
It was the UP Beta Epsilon and the Alpha Phi Beta Frat who took the feasibility of the Malampaya Fund for biodiversity conservation to debate.
The affirmative team UP Beta Epsilon fought for the amendment of Presidential Decree 910 by saying the country should adapt to the present situation of the society.
The team pointed out that despite countless explorations in the industry, there is still no energy security, and instead flora and fauna are damaged during these explorations. Allowing for the conservation of biodiversity will ensure more resources in the future, they said.
They also pushed for more investment on renewable energy, whose explorations and development allow for less biodiversity sources to be harmed.
The Alpha Phi Beta Frat, on the other hand, asked what put biodiversity conservation over other causes like funding the national defense or the energy crisis.
“How is biodiversity more important than energy and defense?” they asked.
The Philippines has one of the highest costs of electricity in Asia, with prices surging to as much as P12 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
Using the Malampaya Fund for things other than what it was meant for signify that there will be less funds to address the needs of the energy sector, which may further increase the cost of electricity in the country.
Rotating brownouts will become more frequent, which will also hamper the productivity of the business and economy sector, the team said.
“Biodiversity is important, but there are other ways to bridge the gap in biodiversity financing,” they added.