Efforts to keep the forests of Panay Island alive got a boost on Thursday as the German government formalized its financial grant for a forest protection project being undertaken by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in one of the largest islands in the Visayas region.

With German Ambassador Thomas Ossowski in attendance as witness, GIZ Director and Principal Advisor on Climate Program Dr. Bernd Markus Liss signed, in behalf of GIZ Country Director Dr. Andreas Kalk, the implementation agreement with DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, of the Forest and Climate (FORCLIM) Protection Panay Phase II, agreeing to provide 4 million euros or roughly P200 million for the project.

With the accord, Panay Island is assured that its forests and their biological diversities are well protected during the next three years and nine months.

Panay Island is the sixth largest island in the country and the third largest in the Visayas, next only to Samar and Negros Islands. It is comprised of four provinces, namely: Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo.

“We are deeply appreciative of the continuing assistance of the German government to the country, particularly the DENR to ensure the protection of the remaining blocks of forests in the Panay Mountain Range, including the varied biodiversity therein,” Paje said shortly after signing the agreement at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

He added: “Germany has remained consistently involved in the country’s forest conservation efforts not only through GIZ but also other multilateral funding organizations like the Global Environment Facility which is a significant contributor to our foreign-assisted projects on forestry.”

For his part, Amb. Ossowski said the project is another step in the “excellent cooperation” between the two countries, adding that the Philippines has become a “strategic partner of Germany in biodiversity protection and climate change efforts.”

He also described the country’s rich biodiversity as a “garden of Eden, where one can really admire God’s creation, and worthwhile to protect.”

The FORCLIM project seeks to conserve the last remaining larger block of natural forest with globally important biodiversity on Panay Island.

It is also seen to boost the country’s compliance with its commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the implementation of its intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) to global greenhouse gas emission reduction under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Despite limited resources, the Philippines has been making remarkable strides in the fight against climate change, among which is the National Greening Program which enabled us to expand our forest cover by more than 1.3 million hectares from 2011 to end of December last year,” Paje said.

He added: “Yet, at the same time, we will continue to seek, along with other developing countries, for assistance whether financial or technology transfer in order for us to attain our INDC of 70 percent emission reduction.”

Paje represented the country in the Convention of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, France in December last year, where he strongly pushed for the inclusion of adaptation finance in the global climate deal.

The project will be jointly implemented by DENR’s Forest Management Bureau, Biodiversity Management Bureau and Western Visayas regional office, the GIZ, local governments and people’s organizations. ###