Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia H. Benavidez accompanied by Minister Giovanni Palec attended the 24th Post Forum Dialogue (PFD) on August 31 at Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The 43rd Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) had concluded last August 30 with the leaders issuing the Forum Communiqué.
The PFD was attended by high level officials from the PFD Dialogue Partners, notably among them, United States (US) Secretary of State, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Mr. E. Ahamed, Japanese Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Joe Nakano, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, British Minister Responsible for the Environment Richard Benyon, and Australian Parliamentary Secretary of Foreign Affairs Richard Marles.
The PFD was opened by Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands, this year’s host of the PIF with the theme: “Large Ocean Islands States – the Pacific Challenge”. He gave an overview of the PIF Joint Communiqué emphasizing the need to strengthen regional cooperation to effectively address the development in the Pacific region.
Prime Minister Puna also mentioned the increased focus on gender equality and the need for a balance between sustainable development and the preservation of the environment.
The Prime Minister stated that benefits will come out of the review of the Pacific Plan in 2013 and that more efforts in addressing climate change should be made. On the Rio+20 outcome, he was glad that it included plans for the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS). He stressed that the PFD was an important part of the PIF. He also commended Australia for its Pacific Gender Equality Initiative and thanked Australian Prime Minister Julia Guillard for her country’s generous commitment of A$320 million in new funding for over 10 years to increase the proportion of women in leadership and political roles, improved economic opportunities for women, and improved safety for women.
Heads of delegation from Canada, the US, Japan, Indonesia, France, China, India, UK, the European Union (EU), South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia presented their countries’ respective engagement in the region with many providing the amount of assistance extended over the years while some indicated that additional funding would be made available for priority projects.
Ambassador Benavidez delivered the statement for the Philippines which stated that as neighbors in the Pacific, the Philippines faces the same challenges and shares the same opportunities and responsibilities to benefit from as well as to manage its ocean resources.
This year’s theme, Large Ocean Island States: The Pacific Challenge, is of special significance to the Philippines. As a mid-ocean archipelago, the seas have been an integral part of the political, economic and socio-cultural development of the Philippines. She pointed out that the Filipinos “depend on the seas that surround our islands not just for food and transport, but also for the seeds of stories of our people, and the unity, identity and security of our nation”.
The Philippines has close to 1,500 coastal municipalities that depend on the seas and has led efforts in understanding the importance of keeping a viable and sustainable coastal marine economy to the development of the nation, and to the sustainability of marine resources and the marine environment as a whole.
The Philippines remains committed to promoting the effective management of fish resources in order to achieve the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, and the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean or WCPF Convention.
In giving effect to the provisions of the WCPF Convention, the Philippines upholds the conservation and management principles and measures developed by the WCPF Commission, whose members include all PIF member states and several PIF Dialogue Partners.
The Philippines remains fully committed to the conservation and management measures of the WCPF Commission. Ambassador Benavidez stressed that as part of the country’s commitment to having sustainable fishing, the Philippines is hosting the next Western and Central Pacific Fisheries (WCPF) meeting and invited the participants to attend the 9th Regular Session of the WCPF in January 2013.
The Philippines is exploring cooperation with donor partner countries through a trilateral cooperation arrangement that will allow the delivery of technical assistance to PIF countries in the areas of Philippine expertise, such as the environment, health, fisheries and agriculture, gender and development, women empowerment and protection, entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises enhancement, and culture/heritage protection, and tourism promotion.
Ambassador Benavidez extended the invitation to all PIF friends to participate in the upcoming course organized by the Technical Cooperation Council of the Philippines (TCCP), “Conference/Workshop on Cultural Tourism” which will be held in Vigan, Ilocos Sur on November 6 to 10 of this year.
Ambassador Benavidez highlighted the fact that like many PIF countries, the Philippines is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters and stands ready to cooperate with friends around the Pacific region on these areas of crucial importance.