The Philippines will continue to play a major role in achieving sustainable development through environmental protection among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu made this promise as the country celebrates August as the ASEAN Month to commemorate the 52nd founding anniversary of Southeast Asia’s premier intergovernmental organization.

According to Cimatu, the Philippines has been a leader in promoting environmental protection to achieve sustainable development in the ASEAN region during the last five decades.

The country’s involvement in the ASEAN, he said, has resulted in “significant contributions to laying a foundation for common actions of cooperation on sustainable development” among the 10 member countries.

“Of note is the role the Philippines has played to put forth the gains ASEAN has made in promoting sustainable development and deepen the organization’s progress to improve the region’s environmental quality in the spirit of equality and solidarity,” Cimatu said.

The Philippines is one of the founding members of the ASEAN, which was created on August 8, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand primarily to spur economic and socio-cultural growth in the region through joint undertakings to strengthen the foundation for a thriving and peaceful community of Southeast Asian nations.

The ASEAN Community has three pillars: political-security; economic; and socio-cultural.

According to Cimatu, the Philippines played a key role in advancing ASEAN’s motto “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” with the DENR’s involvement in ASEAN dialogues and consultation mechanisms, particularly the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community through the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment (AMME).

Within the ASEAN framework, the development of environmental cooperation is discussed at the AMME and is convened every three years.

For monitoring and harmonization of environmental preservation efforts among Southeast Asian countries, the ASEAN Senior Officials on Environment (ASOEN) was established in 1989. Outputs the ASOEN conferences are reported to the AMME.

Under the ASEAN Cooperation on the Environment, Secretary Cimatu acts as the Philippine Official to AMME while DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones is the designated Senior Official to the ASOEN.

The DENR also represents the Philippines in seven ASEAN Working Groups (AWGs), namely on climate change, coastal and marine environment, chemicals and waste, environmental education, environmentally sustainable cities, natural resources and biodiversity, and water resources management.

Cimatu said the country’s active participation in these AWGs have yielded “numerous benefits to the government’s environment conservation and protection efforts ranging from projects, grants, and hosting of center of excellence—the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity in Laguna.”

From 2006 to 2019, the country hosted five important AMME-related events such as the AMME Environmental Summit held in Cebu City in November 2006. The DENR also hosted several ASOEN meetings, including those held in Boracay in 2007 and 2017, with the latter coinciding with the country’s hosting of the 50th ASEAN Founding Anniversary.

Last month, the DENR hosted two major regional environmental events—the 22nd ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF) Meeting and the ASEAN Ministerial Roundtable Discussion on Clean Air, Health and Climate Change.

The ASOF Meeting sought to discuss measures on how to further strengthen regional cooperation to address transboundary threats to forests and development of internationally compliant forestry-based products within the region.

Cimatu himself participated in the ASEAN Ministerial Roundtable Discussion held in Makati City on July 24-25. High on the agenda were initiatives and insights toward global climate action and clean air and health to meet the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The roundtable meeting provided a platform for an interactive discussion, in a high-level setup, on the opportunities and challenges of coming up with a regional approach to air pollution and climate change.

The two-day event also gathered policy experts and scientists in the ASEAN region and beyond to share local initiatives and insights toward achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the nationally determined contributions of each country.

During the event, the ASEAN member countries were called upon to respond collectively to the Special Report on Global Warming 1.5°C published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018. ###