(Wolrd Ocean Council logo)

(Wolrd Ocean Council logo)

The Philippines is taking part in the world’s largest gathering of ocean stakeholders that seeks to develop leadership and collaboration in the sustainability risks and opportunities affecting the future of marine environment.

Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Ramon J. P. Paje represents the country to the second Sustainable Ocean Summit (SOS) being held from April 22 to 24 in Washington, D.C.

Organized by the World Ocean Council (WOC), SOS is an international conference attended by policy makers and executives from different parts of the world that distinguish themselves as leaders in ocean stewardship and sustainability.

The summit, which was first held in Belfast, Ireland, in 2010, brings together a wide range of industries involved in the use of marine space and resources.

“The Philippines, especially, is a major player in sustainability of coastal and marine resources, being an archipelagic country with 240 million hectares of water (30-million hectares of land), and being at the center of the world’s marine biodiversity,” Paje said.

The environment chief said the importance of the Philippine seas could not be underscored enough as the country has been considered as among the world’s largest producers of fish and aquaculture, and that it accounts for 43 percent of the marine aquarium fish and 36 percent of the invertebrates traded globally.

According to Paje, the country’s participation in the summit is significant in light of preparations being undertaken by the government as it hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in 2015.

The Office of the President earlier tasked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to host the Ministerial Meeting on Oceans or the Blue Environment during the event.

Moreover, the Philippines was the site of the “Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities” in which different governments and the European Commission committed to reduce, control and prevent marine litter, wastewater, and pollution from fertilizers.

The declaration was signed during the Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections (GLOC) and the Third Intergovernmental Review (IGR-3) Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment, which was hosted by the Philippines in January 2012.

The Philippines is also involved in several key collaborations for ocean conservation especially in Southeast Asia. One of these is the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Conservation Program with Indonesia and Malaysia.

It is also one of the six member countries of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, protecting the Coral Triangle that contains 40 percent of the world’s coral reef fish species and 75 percent of the world’s coral species, 53 percent of these were found to be resilient to climate change.

Part of the Coral Triangle is Palawan’s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, which was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.

Last year, the Philippines’ claim to the Benham Rise Region (BRR)—a 13-million-hectare area off the coast of Aurora province—as part of its extended continental shelf was approved by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As such, the country has sovereign rights to natural resources within the BRR, including gas and mineral deposits.

UNCLOS is an international agreement that defines the limits of territorial seas of countries in which they can exploit marine resources.