Press Release
November 3, 2011


Director-General Irina Bokova of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) encouraged the Philippines to protect ecological biodiversity and promote cultural diversity even as it strives to grow its economy.

In a meeting with Sen. Edgardo J. Angara at the sidelines of the 36th Session of the UNESCO General Conference last week, Bokova asked about the how the rich biosphere reserve of the province of Palawan is being protected from destructive activities such as mining. She also inquired about the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Angara, head of the Philippine delegation to the General Conference, assured Bokova that the local government and citizenry of Palawan are very proactive in protecting the province's environs from disruptive activities.

"Every inch of Palawan remains highly diverse," said Angara. "Fortunately, the people of Palawan are very much aware of their natural heritage and are keen on protecting it. Palawan, especially the underground river park, is a great example of a successful ecotourism program undertaken jointly by the local government and community."

Bokova underscored that economic development can be achieved without sacrificing a country's biodiversity.

"We fully agree--and the Philippines must rise to that challenge," said Angara.

Bokova also commended the Philippines for being active in promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogues in the country as well as internationally.

The Philippines sponsored and pushed for the passage of a resolution institutionalizing the Dia del Galeon (Day of the Galleon) every 8th of October, which marks the day in 1565 when the San Pedro galleon found the first return route or "tornaviaje" from the Philippines to America.

UNESCO unanimously passed the resolution its General Conference in Paris in 2009 in recognition of the galleon trade's role in not only aiding trade, but also in transmitting culture, information and knowledge.

The first International Dia del Galeón Festival was celebrated in accordance with the UN General Assembly's proclamation that 2010 is International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Bokova lauded the celebration for fostering mutual understanding and cultural diversity.

"Another challenge before us is preserving cultural diversity--managing cultural conflicts, not igniting them," said Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture.

"Economic problems can be solved with calculated strategy. However, cultural conflicts must be handled more delicately--with compassion, understanding, an open mind and a goal to achieve peace."

In closing, Angara thanked Bokova for her continuing support to the Philippines and for having visited the country this year, during which she was conferred an honorary degree by the Philippine Normal University.

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