Philippines to set voluntary commitments to protect the oceans

May 16, 2017

16 May 2017 (Cebu City) – The Philippines will set its voluntary commitments to protect and conserve the oceans at the Philippine Ocean Conference to be held in Cebu City on 16-17 May 2017.The conference is in response to the United Nations’ call for concrete actions to protect the oceans and achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), and the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), are hosting the national consultation with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Philippines’ voluntary commitments will be presented during the Ocean Conference to be held in New York on 5-9 June 2017.

The Philippines is one of the 18 mega-diverse countries in the world, harboring two-thirds of the earth’s biodiversity and home to between 70-80% of the world’s plant and animal species. The coastal waters of the Philippines alone boast of the highest marine biodiversity in the world – a total of 464 reef-building coral species or nearly half of all known coral species in the world, and an estimated 10,000 aquatic species or approximately one fifth of all known species globally. In fact, the country’s marine waters are seen as the epicenter of marine biodiversity on earth. In 2012, the Philippines ranked 7th in the top fish producing countries in the world.

“The sheer expanse and richness of the Philippines’ marine biodiversity naturally sustains the life of millions of Filipino people – the health and productivity of the coastal and marine environments are crucial for their livelihoods and food security. Despite immense efforts that the government and its partners have done in the past, the threats that contribute to the degradation of our oceans continue to increase. It is a call for all of us to learn from our past efforts and do more,” says DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Theresa Mundita Lim.

Over exploitation, unsustainable practices, over-fishing, poor fisheries management practices, and natural disasters exacerbated by climate change are contributing significantly to an alarming rate of marine biodiversity loss.

“The government acknowledges that the conservation of Life Below Water is a shared responsibility. That is why it is actively working with other stakeholders including the scientific community and the academe in fulfilling its mandate to protect the ocean,” DA Undersecretary for Fisheries and BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona.

The Philippine Ocean Conference will develop voluntary commitments from relevant national, regional and local agencies as well as private sector, multilateral and bilateral agencies and the academe.

“SDG 14 targets are ambitious.  They need a huge push or they may well be missed.  Many of the targets have a deadline of 2020 – only 3 years away – and we have no time to lose. Globally and nationally we are not in a good place. We lack data and a good understanding on the impact we are having on the oceans and how much we depend on them for our own survival,” UNDP Philippine Country Director Titon Mitra said.

“The Ocean Conference has to be a game changer - it has to come up with an action agenda to halt the serious and alarming decline in the state of our oceans. The voluntary commitments we develop at this national consultation should be underpinned by concrete targets and strategic actions.”

The Philippines’ voluntary commitments will be registered to the Ocean Conference Commitments Registry, https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/, which is the platform developed for all public and private organizations – including governments, local communities, NGOs, private sector, multilateral organizations, and so forth – working on ocean-related issues to register their initiatives/projects as voluntary commitments for the implementation of SDG 14. The list of voluntary commitments will be announced at the Ocean Conference in New York (5-9 June 2017), together with a global “Call for Action” to support the implementation of SDG14.

The Philippine Ocean Conference is attended by close to 140 stakeholders including DENR-BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim, DA Undersecretary for Fisheries and BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona, National Economic and Development Authority Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla, UNDP Philippines Country Director Titon Mitra, UNDP Technical Adviser Jose Padilla, DENR-BMB Assistant Director Antonio Manila, DENR Region VII Director Emma Milan, Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) Resource Facility Senior Country Program Manager Nancy Bermas, representatives from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Department of Foreign Affairs, other government agencies, NGOs, community-based organisations, private sector, and multilateral and bilateral agencies. #

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