By Nora O. Gamolo
As May, the official Month of the Ocean, kicks in the Philippines, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has presented the various investment opportunities in the coastal and marine sector on May 3 when he spoke during the Coral Triangle Initiative High-Level Financial Round Table meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center.
With the Philippines being touted as the “world’s center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity” and having one of the most number of marine protected areas in the world, the country is “a very practical area of investment for coastal and marine protection,” said Paje.
Paje discussed the country’s five priority projects aimed at accelerating coastal and marine conservation, when he gives his statement as one of the ministers of the six-country Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security.
These projects include the establishment of endowment fund as sustainable financing mechanism for activities listed in the country’s National Plan of Action (NPOA) for the CTI; designing a coastal and marine-based payment for ecological services; reversion of abandoned, unutilized and undeveloped fishponds into mangrove forests as a climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy; enhancement of the monitoring system through the establishment of a national coastal and marine database through an integrated information management system; and the establishment of a national integrated coastal and management program to develop the country’s coastal areas and improve the quality of life in coastal communities.
Paje said that the projects were identified to address gaps and challenges in fulfilling the country’s targets and goals in protecting the coastal and marine environment, mainly the lack of funding support to guarantee the sustainability of plans and programs.
The Philippine government is willing to commit a counterpart fund of US$40.8 million, or thirty percent of the US$136 million needed to jumpstart the projects, to “solidify the country’s intentions in providing a sustainable coastal and marine environment to its stakeholders.”
The CTI High-Level Financial Round Table meeting saw environment, fisheries, marine affairs and science ministers of the other member countries discuss their respective national funding priorities to entice development partners, such as the Asian Development Bank, US and Australian Governments, and the Global Environment Facility, to invest in the CTI.
The CTI is a partnership among Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste to sustain the marine and coastal resources within the Coral Triangle by addressing issues such as food security, climate change and marine biodiversity.
The CTI financial meeting is a side-event of the four-day Asian Development Bank (ADB) 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors held in the Philippines from May 2-5.
The ADB meeting was attended by ministers of finance and development, central bankers, representatives of the private sector, civil society and the media to discuss issues on poverty reduction, which is the ADB’s mission.
The country’s richness in marine biological diversity is the focus of DENR-led celebration of May as Ocean Month and May 22 as International Day of Biodiversity (IDBD).
Paje said that the themes, “Buhay Dagat, Buhay Natin ” for the National Month of the Ocean and “Marine Biodiversity” for IDBD highlight the importance of the country’s marine resources in sustaining human life, and vice versa.
“There is a direct correlation between marine life and human life on land; the survival of one depends on the other. This ‘double celebration’ for May will therefore aim to raise the awareness level on that relationship,” he stressed.
The multiple celebrations in May also support the Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities signed in January of this year by representatives of 65 governments and the European Commission.
Paje stressed that the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) has lined up a month-long roster of activities that will highlight issues surrounding the conservation and management of the country’s marine life as well as increase practical action among stakeholders.
The celebrations have kicked off on May 2 at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City with a bike tour. Paje and PAWB officials led participants of the opening ceremony in donning blue shirts for a “Blue Day Campaign” that will drum up awareness on the celebration for the ocean.
The month-long activities for IDBD and Ocean Month were launched, including the holding of an underwater photo contest in coordination with the Network of Underwater Digital Imagers. The contest is open to all amateur and professional photographers who could best depict ocean conservation through pictures, with winners to be announced and awarded during the Ocean Jam on May 25th.
The kick-off ceremony will end with the inauguration of an exhibit where DENR’s partners in marine conservation – such as the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Conservation International, the Coral Triangle Initiative and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity - will showcase educational materials for the public.
Other Ocean Month activities will include a lecture series on marine biodiversity, as well as workshops on management planning for the Manila Bay Region on May 3-4; “Green Fins Code of Conduct” for responsible diving on May 10-11; national consultation on the Coastal Law Enforcement Manual on May 16; and updates on the State of the Coast report on May 28-29.
Activities directly involving the media include a mangrove tree-planting for media members in Calatagan, Batangas province on May 15; and a live TV interview on Global News Network discussing the topic “Marine Biodiversity and Food Security” on May 21.
Marine experts will gather on the International Day of Biodiversity itself on May 22 to discuss Philippine initiatives on the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Eco-region; the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI); the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area; and the Joint Oceanographic Marine Scientific Research Expedition.
On May 25, about 700 volunteers from different sectors will paint murals on marine biodiversity around the 1,075-meter fence of the NAPWC. The mural, to be called the “Wall of Nature”, could be considered the longest in the country upon its completion. The mural painting will be followed by the Ocean Jam, a concert showcasing different musical renditions advocating conservation and protection of the Philippines’ coastal and marine environment.
The PAWB will also launch two different websites on coastal and marine ecosystem management, one for the Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project on May 18, and another for the CTI and its National Plan of Action on May 30.
The month of May was declared in the Philippines as the National Month of the Ocean under Presidential Proclamation No. 57 signed in 1999 by then President Joseph Estrada. The proclamation names the DENR and the Department of Agriculture through its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to spearhead the observance to highlight the protection and sustainable management of the country’s coastal and ocean resources.