MANILA, Philippines—As an archipelagic country rich in fish and other marine life, the Philippines has a major role to play in protecting oceans and ensuring the sustainable use of underwater resources, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said Friday.
The official represented the Philippines at the second Sustainable Ocean Summit in Washington D.C. on April 22-24, which sought to strengthen cooperation and collaboration among countries in safeguarding the future of marine environments.
“The Philippines, especially, is a major player in the sustainability of coastal and marine resources, being an archipelagic country with 240 million hectares of water, and being at the center of the world’s marine biodiversity,” Paje said in a news release issued by his office.
The environment chief noted that the country was considered one of the world’s top producers of fish and aquaculture, accounting for 43 percent of marine aquarium fish, and 36 percent of marine invertebrates traded globally.
Organized by the World Ocean Council, the SOS is an international conference attended by policy makers and executives from different parts of the world. It was first held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2010, and brought together a wide range of industries involved in the use of marine space and resources.
Paje said the country’s participation in the summit was significant in light of preparations being undertaken by the government prior to its hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in 2015.
The Office of the President has tasked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to host the Ministerial Meeting on Oceans or the Blue Environment, a side event at the APEC meeting.
The Philippines, he noted, was also involved in several key collaborations with Southeast Asian neighbors for ocean conservation, including with Indonesia and Malaysia for the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Conservation Program with Indonesia and Malaysia.
It is among six countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific found at the so-called Coral Triangle, which covers 5.7 million hectares of ocean and contains 75 percent of the world’s coral species.
About 85 percent of the reefs in the Coral Triangle are in decline, with the Philippines leading in reef degradation, according to a recent study by the World Resources Institute called “Reefs at Risk.”