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Environmental accounting in dev’t planning

It is very interesting that the National Economic and Development Authority is now emphasizing the need for integrating environmental accounting, also known as natural capital accounting, in regional and national developing planning.

This is very important because many development projects are negatively affecting our environment. It is particularly true in projects that require forest clearing, emitting air pollution and dumping of hazardous solid and liquid wastes. According to the NEDA, environmental accounting is intended not only to ensure the conservation and protection of our natural ecosystems, but it will also enable the Philippines to make progress along the path of sustainable development.

The natural capital accounting is a scheme that correctly gives market values, not only to natural resources per se, but including the indirect values and services they provide, which probably are even higher in terms of valuation. One best example is the forest ecosystem that gives numerous benefits, both to the environment and the people.

The valuation of the forest is not only limited to the timber and non-timber forest products we derive from it, but we also need to account its values as watershed, wildlife habitat, carbon sink, climate and air regulating agent, sources of food, soil and water conservation instrument and natural barrier of the impacts of disaster, among others. If we will account all these values, how much is the cost, for example, of one-hectare natural forest?

There are already some economic instruments that have been developed to determine the values of ecosystem services, such as the payment for environmental services, or popularly known as PES. One of the uses of this scheme is the determination on how much we should pay for the watershed values of our forest ecosystem. Often times, the payment that is being paid to various water servicing facilities is only limited to the services they give in bringing the water to the consumers, but not the cost of the water itself. We should take note that many of us are now relying on processed water, usually called mineral water, and we are paying for it.

It is, therefore, very necessary that any project that would affect our natural forest and other ecosystems should consider the proper environmental accounting so that it will be considered in the decision-making processes.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balicasan underscored the increasing environmental trade-offs present in the process of development that may overwhelm the country’s natural resources in the coming decades, and this, he added, could have major debilitating effects on the national development agenda and economic growth.

Balicasan, who is also the NEDA director-general, further claimed, “Through natural capital accounting, the worth of a service that we get from the natural environment will become known to us and if this is taken into account directly in the estimation of national incomes, policymakers may now make better decisions about development priorities and investments, while promoting a more sustainable uses of natural resources.”

I really hope that this effort of the NEDA in mainstreaming environmental accounting to development planning should be adopted by the different local and national government agencies, because our natural resources and ecosystems are clearly undervalued at present times.

In most cases, environmental concerns are undermined from the direct economic benefits of a particular development project, simply because the broader perspectives of ecosystems services are not fully considered.*

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