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Crawford graduate Likha Alcantara’s wish to help find a united voice in international environmental agreements for the Philippines won her an Australia Awards Scholarship. With a degree from Crawford in her pocket, she now wants to make a difference in how the Philippines implements international environmental guidelines.
Having worked for the under-secretary for international environmental agreements at the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Likha Alcantara wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between the environment and public policy, and help streamline the country’s voice in international environmental agreement negotiations.
“In the Philippines, there’s not much academic expertise on the environment as a function of public policy. That’s why I wanted to come to ANU – it is in the vicinity of national government institutions,” she said.
“The office I was working for was established because there have been a lot of important international agreements, and the government wanted to have an office that dealt with what the Philippines was committing to.
“We wanted to present a streamlined, united stance on environmental issues. That’s why I came here – I wanted to help improve our department.”
To support her studies, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade granted Likha an Australia Awards scholarship. Now, she is keen to go back to her role in government to make a difference.
“They selected me as a candidate, because of my aim to streamline international agreements into the Department of Environment in the Philippines.
“I now get to start anew at the Department, because there are no old habits yet – I get to help establish new ones.”
But studying in Crawford also helped Likha broaden her interests, particularly in environmental conservation.
Likha discovered that her research on the Philippine eagle was a helpful metaphor for illustrating how her country is grappling with protecting the environment.
“Before coming here, I thought I’d definitely go into international environmental agreements. But Crawford gave me an opportunity to reflect, and now I lean more towards biodiversity conservation.
“It all started with the course on environmental policy and communication. In that course, I wrote about the Philippine eagle, an endangered species that takes two years to raise an offspring. I found that the recent pressures on the environment in the country are hindering their procreation. The people who live in their habitat use them as a food source – it’s normal, but since they’re endangered, it has become an issue.
“I loved how I could use this example to think about community development more broadly. I often use this as an example to show why the environment is important. The Philippines are still developing, but there is not much emphasis put on the environment.”