By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
The Philippines has called on East Asian nations to boost their efforts to protect coastal and marine resources in the region, as it provides home to some of the most economically and ecologically important sea areas in the world.
During the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress 2018 in Iloilo City, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu pointed out that pressure continues to mount on coastal and ocean resources in the region with its growing population and the presence of other threats such as overfishing, unimpeded coastal development, disposal of untreated wastes and blast fishing in coral reefs, among others.
The East Asian region covers over 7 million square kilometers of sea area and 235,000 kilometers of coastline.
“It is essential for the region to strengthen measures in conserving coastal and marine ecosystems and its resources to ensure food security and improve poverty reduction,” Cimatu told over 900 participants from Asia, North America, Europe and Australia.
On the part of the Philippines, Cimatu said the country adopted the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) as a national strategy through Executive Order 533 issued in 2009.
The order mandates the DENR to develop a national ICM program in consultation with other concerned agencies, sectors and stakeholders to provide direction, technical support and guidance to local government units and stakeholders in the development and implementation of their local ICM programs.
Cimatu said the ICM has been “mainstreamed in the Philippine Development Plan of 2017-2022 to serve as one of the major strategies to ensure ecological integrity, and clean and healthy environment.”
He disclosed that there is also an ongoing effort to institutionalize ICM through legislation.
Pending such, he said, the DENR continues to implement programs linked to ICM, like the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Program.
He also mentioned that a portion of the Philippine Rise, formerly Benham Rise, has been declared as a marine resource reserve on May 15, 2018.
The Philippine Rise is a 13-million hectare undersea region, which in 2012 was declared by the United Nations as part of the country’s extended continental shelf.
Moreover, Cimatu said the recent enactment of Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act guarantees legislated protection of key biodiversity areas both in terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
“The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) has always been considered as one of the key conservation strategies of the country in protecting its coastal resources which is now geared toward scaling-up to networks of MPAs,” Cimatu said.
Cimatu said that the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project is another major water resource protection program being undertaken in the country to restore the bay’s waters to a level fit for swimming and other contact recreation.
Additionally, the country maintains its commitment to international multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, and the Coral Triangle Initiative.
Cimatu also cited the Boracay closure and rehabilitation, which he described as a compelling evidence that environmental degradation can be reversed through strong political will.