Philippines signs Preah Sihanouk Ministerial Declaration in support of regional cooperation on coastal resilience on climate change

January 10, 2022

The Philippines has signed the Preah Sihanouk Ministerial Declaration in support of regional cooperation on coastal resilience to climate change programs and of PEMSEA 2030 which will address marine plastic pollution and foster the Blue Economy.

   Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu signed the ministerial declaration during the Seventh Ministerial Forum of the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress 2021.

   “Being the most vulnerable region in the world to climate change, we need to enhance strategic partnerships under the existing mechanism which PEMSEA provides,” Cimatu said. PEMSEA stands for the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA).

   The Philippines also reiterates its commitment to the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia 2022 to 2027.

   Cimatu said the need for regional cooperation in coastal management has intensified even in light of the Covid 19 pandemic along with the challenges of climate change.

   He said the Covid 19 pandemic and climate risks have been adversely affecting the Philippine economy.  These have huge negative impact national revenue, people’s livelihood, and the budget for environmental protection.

   The Philippines lost in 2020 $8 billion in tourism revenue including loss due to closure of beach resorts and Marine Protected Areas  and may continue to lose 6% of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to climate-associated risks.

   “These have exacerbated the funding gap on marine environmental protection,” Cimatu said at the East Asia Seas (EAS) Congress 2021.

   PEMSEA 2030 is a decade program of collaboration in South East Asia for reducing marine plastic pollution, enhancing management of Marine Protected Area Network (MPAN), and adopting the SDS-SEA.

   The Philippines, Cimatu recalled, asserted before the  26th Conference of Parties (COP) that financing climate change mitigation and adaptation projects need three types of funding support. 

   These are grants, investments by private businesses in climate-ready technologies, and subsidies for renewable energy.

   Investments in climate-friendly systems are a necessity.  Or much more will be lost in national revenue because destruction of the environment destroys natural resources that are a source of income, jobs, and livelihood.

   “Climate change exacerbates the current pressures that our coral reefs are experiencing.  Based on a study, the Philippines is estimated to lose 6% of its gross domestic product every year until 2100 if it disregards he risks associated with climate change,” he said.

   The application of “blended protection,”  the protection of both land and sea (rivers), and environmental protection through “adaptive management” will be done in the Philippines.    

    This DENR aims to do in order to protect biodiversity.   It includes imposition of a ban on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF).

   It also involves both the protection of river ecosystems and establishment of natural infrastructure (fortress, fence).  Both will support “human social, cultural, and economic needs” (according to the the Stockholm International Water Institute’s exposition on blended protection).

   Cimatu said the government is gratified that the famous Boracay beach has bounced back in attracting tourists. This is despite its closure for six months in order for government to set up sewage treatment facilities and water improvement measures.

   “The renewed image of Boracay worldwide now provides the local government and communities with sustained tourism and livelihood,” he said.

   Likewise, despite the seemingly insurmountable task of cleaning the Manila Bay, DENR has started pursuing its rehabilitation.  This cleanup includes cleanup of the 16 major rivers and 14 river outfalls that drain into Manila Bay’s shores.

   “Massive cleanup and dredging of esteros, construction of solar-powered sewage treatment plants, relocation of informal settlers, and beach nourishment of the baywalk are continuously being undertaken,” he said.

   “Significant reductions in fecal coliform counts were recorded at several monitoring stations in 2020.”

   Cimatu said generating income through the “Blue Economy” has become imperative to support protection of  coastal and marine habitats. Blue economy  is the concept of good stewardship of ocean and its resources.

   “To promote the Blue Economy, the Philippines continues to support sustainable tourism where we ensure the protection of coastal and marine habitats, resources and water quality as well as promote viable livelihood for coastal communities.”

   To promote the Blue Economy also means that the country will engage in sustainable fisheries through multi-species aquaculture and supplemental livelihood for fishers.  It is supporting traceability for sustainable tuna fisheries.

   “The country further invests in more green ports using renewable energy, solar panel lighting, and the establishment of shore reception facilities,” he said.

   Conservation of forests and terrestrial ecosystems to eliminate land-based pollution has to continue as land pollution also finds its way to oceans.

   The Philippines will also pursue emerging Blue Economy industries such as marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology, and green shipbuilding. 

   In relation to this, it will produce the National State of Oceans and Coasts Report.   It reports East Asian Seas’ progress in promoting sustainable and inclusive ocean economy and the nations’ ocean assets.

   The Integrated Coastal Management Act supports Philippines’ sustainable development of coastal and related ecosystems, food security, poverty reduction, and elimination of circumstances that makes the country vulnerable to climate change impacts.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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