Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje has congratulated the province of Albay on being named a biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Paje said the designation gives due recognition to the province’s commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

“Albay’s recognition as a UNESCO biosphere reserve is a tribute to the outstanding efforts of its people as well as its local leaders to live harmoniously with nature, to respect the environment, and to take responsibility for its rich natural resources,” Paje said.

He added: “If every community completely owns up to the care of its ecosystem, then a huge part of our country’s resources is already secured for the future generations of Filipinos.”

Albay’s inclusion in the list of biosphere reserves was announced on March 19 during a two-day meeting in Lima, Peru, following the recommendation of the International Coordinating Council (ICC) of the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) program.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda personally received the award, saying “this award means very much to the people and government of Albay.”

He assured the International Coordinating Council of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program that Albay will always be a “champion of sustainable development.”

The MAB, set up in the early 1970s, aims to improve the “interaction between people and their natural environment on a global scale.

Biosphere reserves are internationally recognized as models of sustainable development, which provide “living observatories” for the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Albay is the third biosphere reserve in the Philippines. The first was Puerto Galera, which was declared in 1977, followed by Palawan in 1990.

There are a total of 669 biosphere reserves found in 120 countries around the world as of 2015.

Salcedo said he had increased Albay’s terrestrial and marine buffer zones from 35,000 hectares to over 131,000 hectares to enhance the conservation of its biodiversity and natural resources, and protective measures for the spawning grounds of sea turtles have been strengthened and put in place.

Albay is blessed with various terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, vast biodiversity, including endangered sea turtles and whale sharks, and is home to the world-renowned Mayon Volcano.###