Remarks by Gloria D. Steele, Mission Director, Launch of “A Glass of the Sea”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

[As Prepared]

Distinguished members of the Board of Trustees of the Bonifacio Art Foundation, marine conservation advocates from government and civil society, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

On behalf of the U.S. Government, I would like to congratulate The Mind Museum for the launch of “A Glass of the Sea”: An exhibition on the Coral Triangle.

U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is pleased to have supported Maribel Garcia and her museum staff on this effort. So what does development--the primary goal of our agency--have to do with a biodiversity exhibit? The answer is defined in what USAID calls a “theory of change.”

USAID’s goal is to assist the Philippines in becoming a more stable, prosperous, and well-governed nation. One significant contributor to this goal is environmental resilience. As the country strives to improve the way it manages its natural resources and biodiversity, it also builds its ability to absorb shocks and alleviate pressures, such as those brought upon by natural disasters. The Philippines can improve biodiversity conservation policy and practice by raising awareness and increasing knowledge about the value of the biodiversity in the Coral Triangle in general, and specifically in the Verde Island Passage. This exhibit is helping to do precisely that.

This is the same basis as our theory of change—raising awareness and increasing knowledge about biodiversity strengthens biodiversity conservation and management. This, in turn, contributes to improved environmental resilience and supports the shared U.S.-Philippine endeavor to achieve broad-based, inclusive and resilient growth for Filipinos.

There are other reasons why USAID supported this project. For example, the wealth of biodiversity in the Philippines is well-documented in scientific literature, and USAID welcomes the opportunity to assist the Philippines in conserving biodiversity for succeeding generations.

USAID has a long history of support to the coastal and marine biodiversity sector in the Philippines. In the past decade alone, USAID has provided assistance worth almost Php 2 billion through such projects as Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH), Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH), and the Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP). The modest grant to the Mind Museum is yet another way by which USAID has demonstrated support for this sector.

Second, when USAID released its first-ever Biodiversity Policy last year, it reaffirmed the tenet that biodiversity conservation is part and parcel of development. We must place an economic value on biodiversity so that people will not take it for granted and neglect it. I believe that this exhibit will raise awareness about the Coral Triangle and the need to protect our marine resources.

Lastly, USAID recognizes the key role that science and technology, and partnerships play in achieving development objectives. This Mind Museum exhibit was funded under a program called Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in (Science) Research or PEER Science for short, which is also supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. This program pairs a local researcher, in this case, Maribel Garcia, with a U.S.-based researcher, in this case, Dr. Terrence Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences, to work together on achieving ecosystem resilience.

USAID is pleased to play a role in developing opportunities to enhance international collaboration among researchers. Surely with the best minds in the Philippines and in the U.S. working together, many of the country’s development challenges can be addressed. The exhibition we are about to see today is an example of how the U.S. - Philippine partnership is good for the planet.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that USAID looks forward to continuing to work with the Philippines on biodiversity conservation and expanding that collaboration to countering wildlife trafficking.

Thank you very much.

Issuing Country