Environment ministers, marine experts, ocean advocates, regional partners and other stakeholders have started arriving in Iloilo City for the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress 2018.

Over 900 participants from across Asia, Europe, North America and Australia are expected to attend the conference from November 27 to 30 at the Iloilo International Convention Center.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is expected to open the congress on Tuesday (Nov. 27) with a welcome remarks. As host province, Iloilo Governor Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. is also set to welcome the delegates.

Dr. Antonio La Viña, chair of EAS Partnership Council, will give the opening remarks, to be followed by a message from UN Resident Coordinator Ola Almgren. PEMSEA Chair Emeritus Dr. Chua Thla-Eng will officially declare the opening of the 2018 EAS Congress.

The EAS Congress aims to build on the commitments under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals where East Asian countries play a crucial role in meeting the global ocean agenda: Goal No. 14 or Life Below Water, which targets the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, seas and oceans.

Organizers of the event—the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Partnerships in Environmental Management for Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA)—said delegates from government agencies, civil society, academe, business, NGOs, international agencies, funding institutions and media have confirmed their attendance to the conference.

They said that around 63% or majority of the participants are foreign delegates from PEMSEA partner countries Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Laos, South Korea, Singapore, Timor Leste and Vietnam; and non-member countries Malaysia, Thailand, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, France and Australia. The rest of the participants or around 37% are local delegates, they added.

Ministers, vice ministers, director generals and other senior government officials from the 11 PEMSEA partner nations are attending the EAS Congress in full force.

The highlight of the conference is the 6th Ministerial Forum where PEMSEA member countries are expected to come up with the “Iloilo Ministerial Declaration on East Asian Region, Moving as One to Secure Healthy Oceans, People and Economies.”

PEMSEA, whose headquarters is located within the DENR central office in Quezon City, is an intergovernmental organization operating in East Asia to foster and sustain healthy and resilient oceans, coasts, communities and economies across the region.

This year’s EAS Congress is also a celebration of 25 years of partnerships for healthy oceans, people and economies.

The four-day conference will feature interactive sessions and dialogues called “Ocean Talk and Sea Exchange,” the PEMSEA Network of Local Governments Forum, and presentation of regional and national State of Oceans and Coasts Reports.

There will also be “Partnership Hub” sessions focusing on different aspects of ocean management. Among the issues to be discussed are Climate and Blue Carbon, Marine Pollution and Clean Water, Biodiversity and Coastal Management, Governance and Partnerships, Research and Tools, Ocean Industry and Finance, and Blue Economy.

The resource speakers include Prof. Laura David of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, Save Philippine Seas co-founder and “chief mermaid” Anna Oposa, Communities Organized for Resource Allocation founder Antoinette Taus, and Pocholo Espina, Chief Executive Officer of Sip PH which was the recipient of the PEMSEA 2017 Youth Small Grants Competition.

The youth delegates from PEMSEA member countries, as well as Thailand and Malaysia, will have their own forum on coastal and ocean sustainability.

The EAS Congress 2018 will culminate with a tour of Iloilo City and the island province of Guimaras. ###