Coastal mangroves, fertile plains, luxuriant tropical jungles, rugged mountains, and active volcanoes and hot springs characterize the landscape of the Philippines. The islands are rich in mineral resources such as lead, nickel, zinc, copper and cobalt. The country is considered to be one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world, home to over 52 000 species of flora and fauna. The country's species rank in the top ten in the world, making it one of the most unique in terms of biodiversity (MTPDP, 2004-2010).
However, forest resources have been declining because of harvesting and logging activities, conversion of forestland to non-forest use, forest fires, and natural death of trees (NSCB, 2005).
The productivity of the coastal and marine areas has been continuously threatened by destructive and illegal fishing methods, siltation, pollution, and overfishing. Widespread loss of the country's coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass has contributed to a dwindling fish population.
These environmental problems caused by profit-driven concepts of development have greatly affected women's livelihoods, food security, and overall health and well-being. Thus, women's participation and empowerment have been limited. Natural and man-made calamities have added to the burden of women, given their domestic and caring roles in the family and in the community (RSFW, 2001-2003).
Rural women recognize that threats to the environment are threats to their lives as well. Indigenous women assert that mining and logging concessions are a direct hazard to their culture and a violation of their rights to their ancestral domains. Peasant women raise the issues of chemical-intensive farming systems and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as hazardous to both the environment and to the peoples' health. Fisher women draw attention to the fact that proliferation of aquaculture farms, illegal fishing and mangrove conversion put coastal biodiversity, and eventually their livelihoods, at risk (Philippine NGO BPA+10 Report, 2005).
The government has instituted major policies and programmes to grant women equal access to natural resources through its community-based forest management and community livelihood assistance programmes. Certificates of stewardship contracts have been issued to both spouses and training programmes were made available to women and men (CEDAW, 2004).
The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997 or IPRA provides equality between indigenous women and men in connection with rights and opportunities in various spheres of life, and participation of indigenous women in decision-making processes at all levels. The IPRA, however, exempts mineral lands from the coverage of certificates of ancestral domain claims (CADCs). It is a known fact that mining, logging and agribusiness have serious negative impacts on the economic, health, environment and cultural aspects of the lives of the indigenous peoples (IPs). These industries focus on the extraction of resources in ancestral lands that displace and uproot the IPs from their lands and their culture.
Women's representation and participation in environmental-related bodies have been noted through policy issuances on admission of women in corps of commissioned officers in the coastal and geodetic surveys, beneficiaries of homestead patents, and memberships in Protected Areas Management Boards, the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development and the Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council (Philippine NGO BPA+10 Report, 2005)