The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has time and again emphasized the vital need to preserve and sustain the region’s biodiversity for the food security and survival of its around 639 million population.
Of the ASEAN’s 10 member countries, Indonesia has the biggest number of people, 261.115 million, which is 40.89 percent of the entire region’s populace.
As of September 2017, the rest of the region’s population are: Philippines, 103.320 million; Vietnam, 92.701 million; Thailand, 68.864 million; Myanmar, 52.885 million; Malaysia, 31.187 million; Cambodia, 15.762 million; Laos, 6.758 million; Singapore, 5.607 million; and Brunei, 0.423 million (
The region’s combined population makes it “the world’s third largest market.”
Meanwhile, ASEAN, like the rest of the world, is hit by “dwindling biodiversity resources, changing landscapes, and increased demand for food.” Thus, the challenge to ensure sustainable development and food security provides “a constant and urgent challenge.”
One of the initiatives the leaders and officials of the region, now a single market through the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), is recognizing the champions of biodiversity. “Biodiversity” (from the words biological and diversity) sums up all the variety of life on Earth, such as plants, animals, fungi, and micro-organisms. It also includes their communities and where they live (habitats).
Implementing the initiative is the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) through the ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes.
Each of the ASEAN members has its own biodiversity hero, who are being recognized every year.
Last year the ACB partnered with the Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI) through its corporate responsibility arm, HARI Foundation, Inc., for the award.
ASEAN’s 10 current biodiversity heroes are:
Eyad Samhan, Brunei Darussalam; Sophea Chhin, Cambodia; Alex Waisimon, Indonesia; Nitsavanh Louangkhot, LAO PDR; Prof. Zakri Abdul Hamid, Malaysia; Dr. Maung Maung Kyi, Myanmar; Dr. Angel C. Alcala; Pro. Leo Tan Wee Hin, Singapore; Dr. Nonn Panitvong, Thailand; and Dr. Dang Huy Huynh, Vietnam.
Hyundai also presented the ASEAN heroes its Hyundai Icon for Biodiversity as well as provided incentive prize for the 10 winners, a cash prize of US$2,000 each.
Atty. Roberto V. Oliva, executive director of ACB, cited the heroes for changing the mindset that helps better protect the environment.
Relatedly, the awardees — Alcala, Sophea, and Panitvong — batted for the use of technology in protecting biodiversity.
The Filipino awardee cited the importance of video cameras in recording deep water fish from 50 to 100 meters down in the ocean to locate them and make it easy for fishermen to catch them.
Alcala said also being used is the applications of genetics science to determine the parents of the fish caught in shallow coastal waters, adding it was found out they were born far away but larvae were brought downstream by ocean currents.
Cambodia’s Sophea said he relies so much in technology in reaching more people and in bringing attention to as many people as possible the importance of a safe biodiversity. He cited social media such as Facebook to broadcast his advocacy and work. “Just one click and many people will be able to learn about biodiversity,” he added.
Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, president of HARI Foundation, Inc. (HFI), described the 2017 awardees as “a symbol of hope” and as “silent warriors who move and act for love of man and planet.” She cited the Korean car company’s philosophy vis-a-vis the environment.”Environmental stewardship has always been at the core of the corporate philosophy of Hyundai in the Philippines,” Perez-Agudo emphasized.
The Hyundai executive said their company has been around for 20 years as a business and more than 10 years participating in nation-building through HFI, saying the company has been exercising “responsible corporate investment to heart making sustainability a lifestyle and advocacy among our employees, dealerships, and key stakeholders a commitment that gave rise to initiatives that contribute to the Philippine agenda for sustainability.”
Meanwhile, Hyundai is not resting on its “green crusade, taking it further. “That is why we join forces with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity to respond to the global call to raise public awareness of a planet in peril. The ACP (is) spearheading collaboration and capacity building in biodiversity among the 10 ASEAN members states,” she said.
Perez-Agudo pointed out that HARI Foundation is “the ACB’s first and only biodiversity champion from the business sector; two hearts moving as one to change mindsets.”
Relatedly, HARI also presented each of the biodiversity heroes an award from Hyundai dubbed the ICON of Biodiversity.
The ACB said “a biodiversity hero can be an environmental activist who closely follows what is happening with biodiversity” and raising “concerns when lives are affected by the changes in biodiversity.” And that “a biodiversity hero could be a scientist, a professional, a ranger, or a simple person who cares enough to protect the web of life.”