ENERGY Development Corp. (EDC) extended its existing two-year partnership with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) for two more years to conserve an additional 600 tree species in a virtual signing of the agreement.

Some 200 Philippine endemic tree species and 470 near-endemic species found in two or three more countries will be included in the conservation effort.

“Just when you think you’ve accomplished your goals and reached the finish line, that line just keeps getting farther as you find out that what you have done is merely a drop in the bucket,” EDC President and Chief Operating Officer Richard B. Tantoco said in a statement on Thursday.

In May 2019, EDC through its BINHI regreening program was tapped by BGCI as its first and only partner for its Global Tree Assessment (GTA) program. The initial partnership was created to conduct conservation assessments on 800 Philippine endemic tree species, with a grant worth £16,160 or over P1 million.

“BGCI is delighted to be working with you and building on an already fruitful partnership, but we have a big job to do. We aim to persuade the government to use the regulatory levers and their incentives at their disposal to protect and restore what is left,” BGCI Secretary-General Paul Smith said.

BGCI is the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) secretariat for the GTA program, aiding in environmental conservation efforts via research and data gathering, field projects, and advocacy and education.

UK-based BGCI trained the BINHI team, partner organizations, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) representatives on IUCN’s Red List methodology. The procedure covers strict guidelines and data requirements on extinction risk assessments.

Assessments for trees native to the Philippines grew to the current 1,225 from 248 assessments before 2019. Some 42% of these were conducted by EDC with University of the Philippines-Los Baños’ Pro-Seeds Development Association, Inc.

EDC further said that the partnership extension will provide a grant worth £3,000 for the second assessment of 200 Philippine endemic trees before September.

Following the submission of the final species and project report for the second assessments on Sept. 1., an additional £1,800 will be granted. Up to £11,280 will be granted for the “third assessment,” with the budget timeline to be decided by Sept. 1.

Lopez Group Foundation, Inc. (LGFI) will be accepting the funds, free of taxes. LGFI manages the various corporate social responsibility efforts of the Lopez Group.

“If we want to succeed, we really cannot do this alone, the task is too huge for any one entity. So with all humility, we are actually aggressively partnering [with as many] as many entities and individuals as we can throughout the country,” Mr. Tantoco said. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte