By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Philippines has been recognized as one of the five champions in the world for its commendable contribution to protect migratory species, particularly the whale shark, locally known as “butanding.”
On the eve of the United Nations-led (UN) 12th Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) being held in Manila, the government of the Philippines was one of the awardees of the Migratory Species Champion Program under the CMS.
Recognized also by the CMS were Abu Dhabi, European Commission, Germany, and Monaco for their contributions to solving some of the critical issues facing migratory species and by delivering support beyond funding.
The five new Champions were honored for initiatives ranging from combating illegal killing of birds to implementing concerted measures to preserve marine life.
Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia accepted the award, which recognizes the Philippines for its efforts to conserve the whale shark.
Butanding, scientifically called Rhincodon typus, is a filter-feeding shark, very slow moving and the largest known fish species in existence. The waters of Cebu and Sorsogon are most often visited by the whale shark.
It is currently listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“On behalf of the entire CMS Family, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to our Champions, whose generosity enables so much invaluable work to be carried out that is of direct benefit to species across the globe or helps improve our understanding of the great natural phenomenon – animal migration,” CMS Executive Secretary Bradnee Chambers said.
“And I would encourage more governments and institutions to follow the example set by Champions whom we have honored tonight,” Chambers added.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu pointed out that “we need more champions in our continuing fight against hunting, habitat loss, pollution and wildlife trade.”
Launched in 2014, the Migratory Species Champion Program under the CMS is open to governments, companies, organizations and individuals willing to make a financial commitment for at least three years for one or more specific initiatives that fall under the CMS family umbrella.