By Niña Catherine Calleja
Photos courtesy of ACB
His Excellency Alain Gaschen, Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines, paid a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) here on 16 March 2021 to discuss with ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim possible areas for partnerships and collaboration.
Lim, with a few ACB staff, warmly welcomed Ambassador Gaschen immediately after his side visit to the Makiling Botanical Garden, a 300-hectare natural forest situated on the northern, eastern slope of Mount Makiling Forest Reserve, a designated ASEAN Heritage Park in the Philippines.
“I was amazed to discover how much the forest at the Makiling Botanical Garden looked like my home canton of Neuchâtel. During the walk, I felt at some point I was in the Gorges de l’Areuse! An ASEAN Heritage Park, it was my pleasure to be able to visit such a bastion of conservation efforts here in the Philippines,” the Swiss ambassador said.
Gorges de l’Areuse (Areuse gorges) is a popular nature reserve with waterfalls and ravines located in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
“The Swiss are innate nature lovers and together with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, Switzerland is committed to engage in efforts to raise and address concerns affecting biodiversity such as climate change and environmental pressures as well to promote responsible and sustainable bio-trade,” Ambassador Gaschen said.
He said the Swiss government, as a sectoral dialogue partner of the ASEAN, “is prepared to support the ACB in maintaining biodiversity in order to protect forest ecosystems, which are central to people and planet.”
“The ACB has been advocating for this since the inception, the current pandemic reminds us how right they always were,” he said.
Dr. Lim likewise discussed with the Swiss ambassador the ongoing efforts and programs of the ACB in the region, particularly in line with mainstreaming biodiversity into various sectors, such as tourism, agriculture, trade, and education.
“We are deeply honoured that His Excellency took the time to visit us in our headquarters and expressed his keen interest in the region’s biodiversity. We are looking forward to working more closely with the Swiss government,” the ACB executive director said.