Philippines proposes setting up of marine protected areas’ network in SEA

Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz Manila Bulletin 21 Oct 17;

The Philippines is hoping to build stronger ties with other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through the establishment of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the region that would safeguard migratory species and the habitats critical to their survival.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the proposed establishment of MPA network within the ASEAN is contained in a draft resolution submitted by the Philippine delegation led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that is party to the convention.

The draft resolution is up for consideration by more than 120 nations during the 12th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to CMS, which will be held in Manila on October 23-28.

“While there has been notable increase in the number of MPAs in the region, the need to build up a regional connectivity of these areas among ASEAN member nations remains a challenge,” Cimatu pointed out.

MPAs are portions of bodies of water such as seas, oceans or lakes where human activity is restricted to conserve natural resources found within them. Protection measures are defined usually through local ordinances.

DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) director Theresa Mundita Lim said the MPAs provide safe havens and food for migratory aquatic and bird species.

The MPAs also contribute to food security, sustainable livelihood and economic growth, and climate change mitigation and adaptation, she said.

“Effective management of MPAs means we also defend species and habitats from actual and perceived threats so that they can continue to deliver important ecosystem services,” Lim said.

At the same time, Lim noted that the establishment of an MPA network would be a proactive step in protecting globally-important marine and coastal biodiversity, particularly since the region faces complex threats from climate change, overexploitation of resources, and pollution from a burgeoning population.

She explained that the draft resolution was based on the CMS principle of “taking individual or cooperative action to protect migratory species, as well as conserve species and habitats and rehabilitate them if necessary.”

According to Lim, the proposed resolution takes off from each ASEAN country’s national biodiversity strategy and action plans, which already call for designation, connection and management of MPAs.

It also encourages ASEAN countries, especially those that are within the range of known migratory species, to improve the way migratory sites are managed by promoting MPA networks.

Lim said it is imperative for the global community to acknowledge and act proactively on protecting marine and coastal biodiversity.

She also said the draft resolution calls for greater collaboration among regionwide networks, such as the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia, the Coral Triangle Initiative, ASEAN State Officials for Environment, and the ASEAN Heritage Parks.

South East Asia hosts 30 percent of the coral reefs, 35 percent of mangroves, and 18 percent of sea grass meadows in the world.

Despite these figures, only two percent of the entire region has been designated as MPAs.

The draft resolution seeks to conserve at least 10 percent of the regions’ coastal and marine areas.

Lim believes that more MPAs would address continued losses to biodiversity within coastal and marine ecosystems. This is consistent with goals set for 2020 under the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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