Philippines: ‘Wildlife protection to boost ecotourism, job creation’

Rhodina Villanueva The Philippine Star 24 Oct 17;

MANILA, Philippines — Protecting wildlife species is good for the economy as it will boost ecotourism that will generate jobs, officials of the United Nations said during the world’s wildlife conference that opened at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City yesterday.

Speaking during a press conference on the sidelines of the 12th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), UN Environment Program deputy executive director Ibrahim Thiaw said “there is a need to protect our ecosystem” because it “serves as a foundation of our economy.”

“It will help bring tourists to a country and generate employment,” he added.

Bradnee Chambers, executive secretary of CMS, called for the formulation of international guidelines on the protection of wildlife species as it will help achieve its goals.

“As we recognize the importance of ecotourism, we should also recognize certain guidelines that will help set limits as to how we deal with whales for example, like maintaining a certain distance during whale watching, among others,” Chambers said.

He also noted that the COP comes at a critical time for wildlife conservation.

“Our wildlife is not an optional extra, but the basis upon which all our livelihoods and progress depend. Only by integrating wildlife conservation with sustainable development will we be able to protect the remaining species on Earth, species from which we benefit in so many different ways,” he said.
For Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, the COP is a great opportunity to show to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) community and to the rest of the world the importance of why the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region should protect migratory species and safeguard their habitats.

Cimatu said the Philippine delegation will also push for the Manila Declaration that would call on world leaders to take broad and coordinated action to protect the habitats of migratory species within their respective territories.

The Philippine delegation will also call for the adoption of a resolution urging member countries of the ASEAN to implement marine biodiversity conservation initiatives through the promotion of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) at the local and regional levels.

MPAs are portions of bodies of water where human activity is restricted to conserve natural resources in these areas. Protection measures are defined usually through local ordinances.

“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 said.

He also called on member-countries to help in the fight against wildlife trafficking and illegal trade.

The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources estimated that the Philippines has been losing around P12 million because of illegal wildlife trade.

“It is underestimated at the moment because it is being based on the taxes that we lose. The value of the species itself in terms of ecosystem services, has been integrated in the accounting,” BMB director Theresa Mundita Lim said.

Global action vs marine pollution

Environment ministers and representatives from international organizations, the business sector and civil society also called for a global unified action to combat marine pollution during the COP.

Chambers said marine debris, lead ammunition and pesticides are the biggest contributors to marine pollution.

“Marine debris impacts more than 800 wildlife species and this number may still go up as complex issues, including microplastics, still need to be investigated,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu noted that the current efforts to solve the marine debris problem in the Philippines include incorporating integrated coastal management strategies into resource use and development plans of local government units (LGUs).

He said several bills were filed in Congress to ban, phase out, tax or regulate the use of plastic bags in the country. While these measures are pending, some LGUs initiated the use of commercially viable and environment-friendly alternatives to plastic.

Expert rallies vs marine plastic pollution
Catherine Teves, Philippine News Agency Philippines Canadian Enquirer 25 Oct 17;

MANILA — An expert raised urgency for international action against marine pollution from plastics, warning this degradation increasingly threatens humans and the environment.

“This must stop,” UNEP Executive Director Dr. Erik Solheim said Wednesday (Oct. 25) in Manila at the continuing Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) 12th Conference of the Parties (COP 12).

He said concerted efforts of both public and private sectors would make a difference in addressing pollution from plastics. Governments worldwide must mobilize to make the right action, he noted. “Mobilize citizens for the right practices,” he said.

Right practices include not throwing plastics into oceans, he said. Manufacturers of plastic must also look into the possibility of using environment-friendly alternatives for making their products, he added.

He said plastic is a very useful material but its improper disposal would affect health, the environment, and species. A 2016 UNEP report said global production of plastics in 2014 hit 311 million tons.

Estimates show between 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic reached oceans, noted UNEP.

“Plastic debris and microplastics are transported by ocean currents across borders,” UNEP said, citing poor waste and wastewater management, preventable accidental losses and illegal dumping as possible reasons for this leakage.

UNEP said such leakage had serious environmental, social and economic consequences as it harms wildlife, safety of sea transport, fisheries, tourism, and recreation.

Plastic pollution also threatens marine ecosystems, UNEP noted. CMS is an inter-governmental treaty under UNEP and provides the global platform for conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and habitats of these species.

Parties to CMS agree to protect and conserve migratory species particularly those at high risk of extinction. “Their future is our future – sustainable development for wildlife and people” is CMS COP 12’s theme and highlights the link between migratory species’ conservation and sustainable development.

“That future starts now,” CMS Executive Secretary Dr. Bradnee Chambers said at COP 12’s opening this week, highlighting the urgency for more international cooperation on migratory specie conservation.

He cited the need for elevating conservation efforts so people can continue benefiting from services migratory species provide. Migratory species are animals that cyclically and predictably cross one or more national jurisdictional boundaries in response to seasons, availability of food or need to reproduce, said the Philippines’ Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

“Animal migration can be found in all major animal groups including birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects and crustaceans,” BMB said.

Experts cited food, pollination and pest control as among migratory species’ benefits. Such species also have potential as medicinal sources and eco-tourism draws, they added. (PNA)

Philippines, countries called to protect marine ecosystem for shark species
LEANDER C. DOMINGO Manila Times 26 Oct 17;

MARINE conservation groups have urged the Philippine government to pass a comprehensive law to protect and conserve all shark species in the country even as it called the world’s nations to ensure protection of whale sharks and wedgefish, which are on the verge of being extinct.

According to the United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization, global shark population is experiencing an unprecedented decline because humans are driven by an annual trade value of $1 billion resulting in almost 100 million sharks being killed each year, with fishing rates exceeding the ability of shark populations to recover.

Sharks are vulnerable to fishing pressure because they can take decades to mature and they produce few young, and they are also targeted for their fins for use in shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asia.

While the 12th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) way taking place place in Manila on October 23-28,

conservation groups took the opportunity to call for the protection of shark species numbering more than 200 in the country.

Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, said the country ranks fourth next to Australia, Indonesia and Japan, and is in a unique position globally when it comes to shark species biodiversity. But only a few species are protected in the country.

“To demonstrate that we are serious about our call to the global community, it is important for the Philippine government to pass a comprehensive law to protect and conserve all shark species in the country,” Cinches said.

Important to ecosystems

He added that sharks are important species in maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem, but it is threatened with illegal, unregulated, unreported and destructive fishing.

Anna Oposa, Save Philippine Seas executive director, said the Philippines has been at the frontline of protecting whale sharks for nearly two decades.

Oposa said at the COP, the Philippines is again leading the protection of the species by being the proponent for up-listing from Appendix II to Appendix I and that “we have shown the world that sharks are truly more valuable alive than dead.”

“By listing them on Appendix I, parties are urged to strictly protect them throughout their migratory range,” she added.

In 1998, whale shark was the first shark to be nationally protected through Fisheries Administrative Order 193 banning its taking or catching, selling, purchasing, possessing and exporting.

But in 2016, whale sharks were re-classed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered,” which is a step closer to “Extinction” while wedgefishes are in the “Vulnerable” status.

Commonly targeted because of their high-valued fins, wedgefishes are threatened by overexploitation, giving the white-spotted wedgefish (Rhynchobatus australiae) a “Vulnerable” status under the IUCN.

Oposa said since the species are highly mobile that makes it a shared resource, there is a need to take steps to improve the status through the cooperation among countries within its range.

According to the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP), the Philippines has proposed the listing of wedgefish on Appendix II at the COP to strengthen the country’s efforts to conserve sharks and rays in the long-term.

Arnel Yaptinchay, MWWP executive director, said the Philippines has encouraged the parties to the CMS to support this proposal.

He added that they are looking at the CMS meeting as an opportunity to call on the Philippine government to fill in legislative gaps in the protection of shark species.

“The Philippines has over 200 shark species. They mature late, reproduce slowly and easily succumb to fishing pressures compared to their bony-fish counterparts,” Yaptinchay said.

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