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Environmental Issues in Philippines

Primary responsibility for environmental protection rests with the National Pollution Control Commission (NPCC), under whose jurisdiction the National Environmental Protection Council (NEPC) serves to develop national environmental policies and the Environmental Center of the Philippines implements such policies at the regional and local levels. Uncontrolled deforestation in watershed areas, with consequent soil erosion and silting of dams and rivers, constitutes a major environmental problem, together with rising levels of air and water pollution in Manila and other urban areas. The NPCC has established standards limiting automobile emissions but has lagged in regulating industrial air and water pollution. In 1996, industrial carbon dioxide emissions totaled 63.2 million metric tons. The nation's cities create an average of 5.4 million tons of solid waste per year and 38 of the country's rivers contain high levels of toxic contaminants.

The nation has 479 cu km of renewable water resources, with 88% used to support farming and 4% used for industrial activity. Only 79% of the rural population has access to safe drinking water. Pollution has also damaged the coastal mangrove swamps, which serve as important fish breeding grounds. Between the 1920s and 1990s, the Philippines lost 70% of its mangrove area. About 50% of its coral reefs are rated dead or dying as a result of pollution and dynamiting by fishermen. The nation is also vulnerable to typhoons, earthquakes, floods and volcanic activity.

In 2001, 49 of the nation's mammal species, 86 bird species, and 320 plant species were threatened with extinction. Endangered species in the Philippines include the monkey-eating eagle, Philippine tarsier, tamarau, four species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherback), Philippines crocodile, sinarapan and two species of butterfly. The Cebu warty pig, Panay flying fox and Chapman's fruit bat have become extinct.

Deforestation, often the result of illegal logging, is an acute problem in the Philippines. Forest cover declined from 70% of the country's total land area in 1900 to about 18.3% in 1999. Many species are endangered and scientists say that Southeast Asia, which the Philippines is part of, faces a catastrophic extinction rate of 20% by the end of the century. According to Conservation International, "the country is one of the few nations that is, in its entirety, both a hotspot and a megadiversity country, placing it among the top priority hotspots for global conservation."