LEGAZPI CITY, July 13 (PNA) — National and local journalists, led by the Philippine Network for Environment Journalist (PNEJ), have joined hands to put up the Philippine Biodiversity Center for Journalists (PBCJ), a PNEJ official said.
Imelda Abano, PNEJ president and a environment on-line journalist of Enteraksyon, said the organization of the biodiversity center was a culminating event during the two-day media forum on Albay’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) practices.
Abano said the center will serve as a venue to bring forth biodiversity issues and heighten public awareness; a link with various information officers of government and non-government groups and other communicators in biodiversity protection cause; as a training hub for journalists; venue for exchange between journalist and scientists and other experts.
At the project briefing, journalists proposed a monthly media forum where journalists, scientists and other stakeholders exchange information about issues concerning biodiversity.
Both national and local journalists agreed that the center be based in Metro Manila and it will set up a website for information sharing.
In her lecture, Dr. Elena Pernia of the University of the Philippine Mass Communication Department, said “Philippine media reported on the possible effects of the unusually cold weather, on food supply, public health and even on tourism but the media failed to provide extensive reporting on the bigger picture, which is climate change.”
Pernia said the journalists report about discoveries of new wildlife species — say, mountain cloud rat, but they overlook the issue of its importance to a forest ecosystem and the increasing number of vanishing species due to habitat loss.
The media report about the natural wonders of a meandering river and roaring waterfalls as an ecotourism site, but they overlook the issue of how the local community has gainfully participated in it.
She said media report about the trafficking of rare mynahs and black corals, but journalists rarely follow up on the cases of those involved in the crime.
Abano, in her article published in 2009, said the science of biodiversity has not been mainstreamed in the Philippines.
Along this line, she urged journalists to mainstream biodiversity events in their news, features and special reports.
Mainstreaming biodiversity stories is a difficult tasks for journalists due to the following factors: national priorities are biased towards more pressing concerns such as stories of disaster, conflicts and threats; journalists struggle for space in broadcast and print media; journalists do not have the right tools, resources and motivation to tackle climate change issues and there is pervasive lack of awareness on the impacts of climate change to sustainable development.
Based on the Haribon Foundation survey on biodiversity public awareness of 480 respondents — 16-19 years old from Metro Manila and outside the provinces of Mindoro, Antique, Surigao del Sur and Cebu — the finding showed that almost all were aware of specific environmental issues; only 17 percent claim to be aware of biodiversity but could not tell the true meaning of the term.
The awareness came from majority from television and the far second source are Metro Manila-based newspaper.The awareness level would depend on the journalistic field as editorial management practice dictates, not giving priority on content unless in times of disasters; broad beats assignments; and in the provinces — territorial, much broader to cover the entire cities and provinces.Meanwhile, specialization and research-based coverage for diversity is sacrificed for general beat or story assignment.
Another factor that affects the gathering of biodiversity stories is the communication gap between journalists and scientists or the experts.Abano said the center has a gargantuan task ahead, including the protection of 440 endemic or restricted range species; 67 globally significant congregations of mangroves, seaweeds, seagrasses, corals, echinoderms, molluscs, elasmobranches, freshwater and reef species, reptiles, birds and mammals. (PNA)