Eleven countries bordering on the Seas of East Asia issued on Thursday a joint declaration reaffirming their commitment towards the conservation and sustainable development of coastal and marine resources in the region.
The Iloilo Ministerial Declaration entitled “East Asian Region Moving As One to Secure Healthy Oceans, People and Economies,” was adopted by environment ministers and heads of delegation during the 6th Ministerial Forum of the East Asian Seas Congress 2018 held in Iloilo City from November 27 to 30.
The 11 countries – Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and the Philippines—are members of the Partnerships in Environmental Management for Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), an intergovernmental organization operating in East Asia to foster and sustain healthy and resilient oceans, coasts, communities and economies across the region.
PEMSEA, together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), facilitated the ministerial forum that was chaired by the Philippines, represented by DENR Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia.
DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu hailed the Iloilo Ministerial Declaration as “a reiteration and stronger call to action” among countries within the East Asian region.
“The Seas of East Asia are the most biodiverse marine areas in the world, yet they face severe threats from climate change and densely populated coastal communities,” Cimatu pointed out.
“The declaration, supported by the respective countries’ plans of action, will ensure that partner countries will work together in addressing complex issues faced by this region,” he added.
The Iloilo Declaration recognizes the significant value and critical contribution of coastal and marine ecosystems goods and services to securing food and jobs, helping to eradicate poverty, and building resilient coastal communities and blue economies in East Asia.
To achieve these benefits, PEMSEA member nations acknowledged the need to protect coastal and marine ecosystems from the impacts of climate change and other threats, including marine-related disasters, destruction and loss of habitats and natural coastlines, biodiversity loss and degradation, and overfishing and lack of food security.
The countries also took pride of PEMSEA’s pioneering work in the region to develop best practices in the design and implementation of the integrated coastal management (ICM) approach, as well as in developing knowledge and capacity to build climate smart policies and enable ocean-based blue economies.
The ICM approach addresses the governance of human activities affecting the sustainable use of goods and services generated by coastal and marine ecosystems; while the blue economy refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.
Under the declaration, East Asian countries strongly believe that “PEMSEA remains relevant and is well-positioned to continue performing its role as the regional platform to ecourage the development of common policies, building capacity and orchestrating essential collaboration and scaled up actions alongside smart financing to deliver economic and social dividends, as well as protect biodiversity and address shrinking coastlines.”
“We are confident that PEMSEA will continue to facilitate regional cooperation to respond to the challenges within the context of the rapidly changing social, political, economic and environmental landscapes and encourage the region to move towards a Blue Economy and Sustainable Development of its coasts and oceans,” the declaration reads.
As part of their commitment to sustainable development, the countries will continue to work to achieve by 2021 the remaining targets set under the 2015 Da Nang Compact on ICM coverage of the region’s coastlines and the adoption and implementation of ICM national laws and policies in all countries in the region.
They also promised to regularly update the State of the Oceans and Coasts reports to highlight the contributions of coasts and oceans to economies, as well as to establish environmental, social and economic indicators to measure the development impact of initiatives on state of coasts, communities and economies.
Acknowledging the current strong momentum to tackle marine debris globally, the PEMSEA member nations agreed to significantly reduce or prevent marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based and sea-based activities, including marine litter and nutrient pollution.
The countries, through their representatives, also vowed to implement policies and programs for the sustainable management of coastal tourism destinations.
They likewise recognized the critical importance of regional collaboration in dealing with coastal and marine hazards like storm surges and tsunamis.
With respect to climate change, the PEMSEA member nations committed to implement adaptation and mitigation strategies to respond to the global phenomenon given the urgency and seriousness of its threats to the sustainable development of countries and the region.
Moreover, the 11 countries vowed to continue their efforts to improve cooperation and engagement between PEMSEA and other nations, relevant international development organizations, the private sector, NGOs, academic and research institutions, and other stakeholders.
They promised to step up the cooperation with regional organizations to achieve the targets under the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA).
“We are determined to continue working together as PEMSEA country partners to deliver our common objectives in line with the SDS-SEA and our regional and global commitments,” they added.
Finally, the countries declared that the biggest threat they face in the region is “ourselves, in the way we live our lives and the way we manage our resources.”
“We therefore strongly urge everyone to shift towards a mindset of responsible stewardship, and pledge to take bold steps to protect, manage and restore our coasts and oceans for our present and future generations,” they said.
“PEMSEA Country Partners are ready to engage citizens in East Asia and peoples in other regions to work together to secure our shared vision of healthy oceans, people and economy.”