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Biodiversity loss to bring more sickness

23 May 2019 Philippines

MANILA -- Two experts expect people's health to further deteriorate if the environment continues to take a beating. 

"We're part of the environment which affects the human body -- if the environment is destroyed, rest assured you'll be sick in the future," Dr. Francis Vicente Ras warned on Wednesday (May 22) during the 2019 International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD) celebration at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City.

Environmental degradation reduces biodiversity, which provides food and medicine for people, noted Ras, who heads the Social Advocacy and Training Division of Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care.

He said over half of what people eat must be fruits and vegetables as most vitamins, minerals, and enzymes come from this live food.

Dr. Leila Africa, University of the Philippines-Los Banos Institute of Human Nutrition and Food director, said biodiversity loss means lesser food options for the diversified and mostly plant-based diet people must have daily for balanced nutrition.

"It's therefore important to care for biodiversity," she said at the event.

She said there must be balance, moderation, and variety in meals.

This year's global IDBD celebration is anchored on the theme "Our biodiversity, our food, our health" to highlight dependency of food systems, nutrition, and health on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

UN proclaimed May 22 of every year as IDBD to help increase global awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues.

"Biodiversity is the foundation of our food and health," Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) assistant director Armida Andres said at the celebration.

She urged all sectors to help protect biodiversity from habitat destruction, climate change, and other threats to this natural resource.

Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) executive director, raised urgency for action, noting the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity warned over 90 percent of crop diversity already disappeared from farmers' fields in the last 100 years.

She also said half of domestic animal breeds are already lost.

"Our health depends on the food we eat while our continuing supply of food relies on biodiversity and ecosystem services," Lim said in her 2019 IDBD message.

Africa reminded parents to help their children become familiar with fruits and vegetables.

Becoming familiar makes it easier for children to accept and eat such plant food, she said.

The government is implementing RA 8423 (Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997) to improve the quality and delivery of health care services for Filipinos. It promotes development of traditional and alternative health care and its integration into the national health care delivery system.

Ras said the recognition of traditional and complementary medicine further raised the need to protect the environment and biodiversity.

The Department of Health already endorsed 10 medicinal plants in the Philippines, he said.

He said these plants are akapulko, ampalaya, bawang, bayabas, lagundi, niyog-niyogan, sambong, tsaang gubat, pansit-pansitan and yerba buena.

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