Remarks by Dr. Susan Brems, Mission Director, MOU Signing with the National Power Corporation

Monday, November 21, 2016

[As Prepared]

[Greetings and Standard Introduction]

It is my pleasure to be here with you this morning to make official a memorandum of understanding between the National Power Corporation and the United States Agency for International Development.

This memorandum will help promote the institutionalization of the forest-protection tool known as LAWIN.

Most people here already know LAWIN. But perhaps not all of you realize how well known it has become. In June of this year, LAWIN was selected as one of 12 winners of no fewer than 270 entries received by the United Nations in answer to a special call. The call was for innovations to present in New York at the first multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals.

What’s more, LAWIN was the only innovation featured from the forestry or biodiversity sectors. This honor is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved. We commend the Philippine Government for the leadership it has taken in forest protection.

The Philippine Government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has officially adopted LAWIN as a national strategy for forest and biodiversity protection. I am happy to note that since March 2016 more than 2,000 forest rangers have been trained on LAWIN.

I am sure that you will agree that no single sector or organization, no matter how large, can address the country’s environmental challenges on its own. Protecting the environment is not possible without the collective support of all stakeholders. This is why we believe that stewardship of the environment is a shared responsibility.

The National Power Corporation has a strong interest in protecting the natural forests and biodiversity of the Philippines. Forest protection also aligns with the strategic priorities of USAID.

We are all aware of NPC’s numerous initiatives to protect the forests where the company works. Actions under way in watersheds feature tree planting, clean-up drives, forest protection and livelihoods for local communities.

As you know, NPC also manages the Environment Fund component of the Universal Charge, a fee imposed on all electricity end-users, in accordance with the Energy Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

The partnership we are formalizing today will harness the Environment Fund to finance forest protection using LAWIN.

This is a strong example of how financing mechanisms can be used to protect watersheds and the related ecosystem services they provide.

We believe that partnerships are essential to address the complex issue of forest and biodiversity conservation. That conservation goes beyond the total number of hectares protected across the country.

For USAID, we see this partnership as a significant milestone for the sustainability of LAWIN that demonstrates its capacity to connect different stakeholders in addressing environmental challenges.

What is distinct in this partnership is that we are committing to share resources, skills, technologies and methodologies to pursue a common goal. By doing so, we believe together we can achieve far more than what each of our institutions could achieve on its own.

This partnership will showcase the importance of engaging multiple stakeholders, particularly in the renewable energy sector, and can be a model for pursuing other strategic and meaningful partnerships to protect forests and the environmental services they provide.

Through the Memorandum of Understanding that we are about to sign, we –– USAID and NPC –– are aligning our collective commitment to protect natural forests from deforestation and degradation through the use of LAWIN.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to everyone whose dedication and hard work have helped finalize the MOU that signals the start of this singular partnership.

Issuing Country