MANILA -- There's more to Philippine tourist destination Boracay Island than its world-famous powdery white sand beaches and tranquil turquoise water.

Boracay is also a haven of native trees -- a fact unknown to most visitors there, noted geothermal pioneer and the environment department's conservation partner Energy Development Corporation (EDC).

"Boracay hosts many native tree species," said EDC corporate social responsibility head Allan Barcena on Wednesday at the 2019 International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD) celebration spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) in Quezon City.

A number of those species are in Boracay's 7.79-hectare Wetland No. 2 which EDC adapted to help facilitate rehabilitation of this ecosystem, he noted.

According to DENR, native species are those normally found as part of an ecosystem.

However, the DENR noted that exotic species are alien to an ecosystem.

EDC raised urgency in preserving and propagating native tree species nationwide, noting these are becoming rare amidst increasing presence of exotic species.

During the IDBD celebration, EDC launched its book "Native Plants of Boracay Wetlands", which features pictures of tree species found in Boracay Island's nine wetlands.

"Hopefully, the book will create more awareness on status of native trees," said Barcena.

Such awareness can help generate more action on preserving and propagating native trees, he noted.

Experts said planting native species of trees and other plants helps to re-establish an area's original ecosystem.

EDC's rehabilitation efforts in Wetland No. 2 are under BINHI, this company's flagship environmental program.

BINHI aims to restore denuded forests, preserve and propagate threatened native tree species and protect biodiversity so future generations of Filipinos can enjoy a verdant Philippines, said EDC in a statement.

At the celebration, BMB OIC Asst. Dir. Armida Andres called on all sectors to help protect trees and other forms of biodiversity nationwide.

Biodiversity is essential to food security and health so losing this resource will have adverse impacts, she noted.

"Once gone, no technology can bring such resource back," she said.

She said habitat loss and wildlife trafficking are among threats to biodiversity.

As such, Andres urged the public to "act now and work together".

This year's global IDBD is anchored on the theme "Our biodiversity, our food, our health" to highlight dependency of food systems, nutrition and health on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

UN proclaimed May 22 of every year as IDBD to help increase global awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues. (PNA)