By Genalyn Kabiling
NONTHABURI, Thailand – The Philippines is pushing for closer regional cooperation to prevent and reduce marine debris ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit here.
As ASEAN leaders and dialogue partners are expected to gather for annual talks this weekend, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon said countries must coordinate efforts to “clean up our oceans.”
“These are issues that affect us as well. Of course with the climate change and the need to clean up our oceans is an important issue to many of the ASEAN countries including us,” Aragon said.
“And therefore, it’s extremely important for us to have coordinated efforts in combatting issues such as climate change, marine debris for the benefit of our people,” she said.
During the first round of the regional summit last June, the 10 Southeast Asian leaders adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris, reaffirming the regional bloc’s commitment to conserve the marine environment.
Under the Bangkok declaration, the regional bloc vowed “to strengthen actions at the national level as well as through collaborative actions among the ASEAN Member States and partners to prevent and significantly reduce marine debris, particularly from land-based activities, including environmentally sound management.”
The group also expressed concern that rapid marine debris pollution, particularly plastic litter, may negatively impact marine ecosystems, fisheries, economies, public health, society, among others, without immediate action.
The leaders pressed for an integrated land-to-sea approach to prevent and reduce marine debris, and strengthen national laws and regulations as well as enhance regional and international cooperation including on relevant policy dialogue and information sharing.
The Bangkok declaration, however, did not include any planned ban on single-use plastic or foreign waste imports as proposed by some environmental groups.
The world’s top polluters reportedly included ASEAN members Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand.