In 04 July 2022, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) received a formal letter from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) informing about the approval of the Project Information Sheet for the multi-year, multi-country Regional Biosafety Project for Asia and a grant amounting to $1,093,186 for the development/preparation of a full project proposal.
The said project will be funded under the Global Environment Facility (GEF-7) and be carried out by the Philippines, India, Mongolia, and Bangladesh, with special participation of the Republic of Korea.
The project will capitalize on the achievements and continuous effort of the Asia Biosafety Clearing House Family (ABF) to build strong partnership and camaraderie to build their capacities not only in the area of information sharing and the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH), but also in other thematic areas in support of the Protocol’s implementation. The initiative for a regional collaboration started in 2015 by the ABF headed by Dr. Ho Min Jang, National Focal Point of Korea Biosafety Clearing House (KBCH). The Philippines is represented in the ABF and played a crucial role in coordinating the activities of selected Asian countries specifically in the awareness-raising and capacity building activities on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
In 2019, the United Nations Environmental Facility (UNEP) in collaboration with the ABF invited Parties in the region to participate in the regional activities and commenced the preparation of the concept note for a post - 2020 regional proposal for GEF. During the Conference of the Parties in 2018, it was agreed that aside from information sharing, Parties shall focus on other thematic areas which were decided during the conference.
Among the six (6) thematic areas that were established, the Philippines identified two (2) focal areas to be implemented by its Competent National Authorities (CNAs), namely: Handling, Transport, Packaging, and Identification of LMOs and Information- sharing and Strategic Knowledge Management.
The project aims to have a sustained regional initiative that intends to increase the level of safety in the transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) by Parties as well as protect the biological diversity from any adverse effects that may result from the introduction of LMOs. In particular, the project aims to laydown and implement activities that would sustain the ABF’s effort to build capacity and foster partnership and cooperation among parties and partners, and develop and implement frameworks, models mechanism for biosafety management in the Asian Region beyond 2020.
Among the expected outcome by the Philippines is increased awareness and knowledge on proper handling, transport, packaging, and identification of LMOs, enhanced sharing and exchange of information and best practices in biosafety management among countries in the Asian Region, increased numbers of stakeholders who are aware and knowledgeable on biosafety, and sustained coordination of regional programs and projects thru the ABF.
The UNEP is expecting the issuance of the GEF Commitment Letter indicating the grant for the development of a full project proposal which is expected to be submitted within eight months to GEF. The Focal points from the participating countries have been named to lead in the coordination with UNEP and Dr. Ho Min Jang to the ensuing activities. From the Philippines, Ms Ma. Lorelie Agbagala, the BCH National Focal Point and Head Secretariat of NCBP and DOST-Biosafety Committee is the appointed lead person. She will be assisted by Ms. Julieta Fe Estacio and Mr. Reimond Corona. A virtual meeting is scheduled on the 27th July 2022 to kickstart the proposal preparation.