2018 proved to be a banner year for the Philippines as a member of the six-nation partnership to protect the Coral Triangle after making significant headway in effectively managing its marine protected areas (MPAs) and fisheries.

“The year 2018 was a good one for the Philippines in terms of our efforts and achievements as a member of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF),” said Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

CTI-CFF is a multilateral partnership of six countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and the Philippines—working together to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources in the region known as the “global center of marine biodiversity” by addressing crucial issues such as food security and climate change.

According to Rodriguez, the country has delivered on its commitment to create more MPAs with the enactment of Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act, earlier this year.

The E-NIPAS Law has brought to 43 the total number of nationally-managed MPAs and 1,816 locally managed MPAs, all covering 1.4 percent of the country’s total sea area.

“One of the milestones of the Philippines is the legislation of additional 10 (nationally managed) MPAs under the (E-NIPAS Act),” Rodriguez said.

MPAs are areas in seas and oceans where human activity is regulated for conservation and protection of the natural resources within them.

Rodriguez also reported the full implementation of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program, which covered activities such as habitat assessment for the NIPAS MPAs, MPA networking technical assistance for local government units, support to 25 MPA networks and some 200 biodiversity-friendly enterprises, and inclusion of ocean acidification baseline study in select MPAs.

She added that coastal stability assessment, mapping, impact monitoring, resiliency studies and updating of coral reef baseline data were conducted in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise.

Other accomplishments of the country in MPA management include the establishment of a two million hectare MPA in northeast Palawan, approval of MPA management plan for Davao Gulf, and creation of five-province MPA and MPA network within the Verde Island Passage, which has been dubbed as the “center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity in the world.” The five provinces are Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro.

Rodriguez noted that effective MPA management is one of the five targets under the country’s National Plan of Action (NPOA) for the CTI-CFF.

“Among the NPOA goals, that of the MPA truly mirrors how much we have achieved in terms of implementation and regional cooperation,” Rodriguez pointed out.

Aside from MPA management, Rodriguez said the country was also successful in adopting the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM), another goal set by the Philippines in its NPOA.

She said the country had intensified its effort to combat illegal fishing nationwide, with the end view of improving food security and livelihood.

To strengthen law enforcement on the country’s coastal waters, Rodriguez said a Committee on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing was created through Executive Order No. 154.

Of the 24 EAFM programs initiated, Rodriguez said six have been completed while 18 are on-going.

The BMB chief said the Philippines also made progress on its 3 other NPOA goals, namely: establishment of seascapes, achieving climate change adaptation measures, and improved status of threatened species.

The Philippines also ends 2018 on a high note with its successful hosting of the CTI-CFF Ministerial Meetings and Senior Officials Meeting on December 9-15, which served as culminating activities for the country’s two-year chairmanship of CTI-CFF.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, called for continued support for the country’s initiatives to protect its coastal and marine resources.

“We look forward to the continued support of our development partners as we embark on the progress of the next Regional Plan of Action (RPAO). This then leads us to tackle issues on marine debris, nature-based ecotourism, blue carbon, and sustained financing for the CTI-CFF goals,” Rodriguez said. ###