The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) welcomed a total of 117 delegates from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines at Quest Plus Conference Center, Clark, Pampanga, for the ASEAN Conference on Medicinal Forest Trees, which will run from September 5 til September 7, 2023.

In her welcome message, ERDB Director Maria Lourdes G. Ferrer stated that the conference marks the commencement of a crucial dialogue among researchers and key players that seek to illuminate the profound medicinal value inherent to nature while also responding to the call to preserve and conserve biodiversity. Director Ferrer also encouraged the participants to immerse themselves in the wealth of information presented at the conference. Borrowing the words from the World Health Organization’s Guidelines in the Conservation of Medicinal Plants, “No single sector, private or public, can undertake the conservation of medicinal plants alone. The job requires a team effort, involving a wide range of disciplines and institutions,” she added.

Forester Conrado B. Marquez, ERDB OIC- Assistant Director, then presented the overview of the conference. “The conference aims to provide an avenue for international ASEAN forum for the exchange of information, sharing of experiences, research results, and updates among scientists, researchers, academe and policymakers,” For. Marquez emphasized. He highlighted the four (4) themes which will be discussed in the plenary sessions. He also discussed the breakout room mechanics for the simultaneous paper presentations on the second day of the conference.

This was followed by the opening of the exhibit and the speed talk of poster presenters. Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Arleigh J. Adorable, Director Maria Lourdes G. Ferrer, Region 1 Executive Director Rizaldy M. Barcelo, OIC-Assistant Director Conrado B. Marquez, Wildlife Resource Division Chief Mr. Anson M. Tagtag, President of Leoni Agri Corporation Antonio Causing, and plenary speakers were present during the ribbon cutting. Dr. Maria Lourdes Q. Moreno, Chief of the ERDB Coastal Zone and Freshwater Research Division shared an overview of the scientific display.

DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs Atty. Jonas R. Leones also graced the event with his video message for the participants. He challenged delegates to have an open mind and engage in a healthy discourse throughout the event. “There is no denying that deforestation and degradation continue to threaten our forests, our repository of medicines. We hope to engage more experts in the field of medicinal plants and forest trees soon as our researchers are finite and the effects of climate change become increasingly evident. Through a multi-sectoral and participatory approach, we aim to turn a shared vision into action,” USec Leones added.

The fifteen (15) poster presenters were invited on stage to present their studies relating to the four themes of the conference: a) Taxonomy and ecology of medicinal forest trees focusing on the identification and classification of medicinal forest trees, conservation and habitat preservation, and identification of newly-discovered species; b) Roles and importance of biotechnology which deals on production and utilization of medicinal forest trees, pest and disease control, pharmacognosy and phytochemistry, and medicinal products and advanced clinical researches; c) Indigenous and traditional knowledge systems covering the ethnobotanical surveys, links between traditional knowledge and modern medicine, and documentation of indigenous and traditional knowledge; and lastly d) Policy studies on medicinal forest trees which center on policy analysis and forest governance, patents and intellectual property rights, and regulations and trade.

In the next two days, delegates will hear in-depth paper presentations on the four themes.