Message of Senator Loren Legarda
Regional Seminar on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction*
12 December 2014 – Century Park Hotel, Manila
There is no question that marine biological diversity is enormously important for the Philippines and the world. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes this importance and very early came up with a work programme on marine biological diversity. However, the the CBD is fairly limited to national biodiversity.
It is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS that governs the use of marine resources in the high seas. But when the UNCLOS was negotiated in the 1980s, we did not yet have the knowledge and insight we now have on marine biological diversity.
Today, we need a new implementing agreement under UNCLOS.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warns that about 80% percent of the world’s fisheries are already fully exploited, over exploited or significantly depleted. Moreover, the World Bank states that an estimated $50 billion worth of economic benefits are lost annually due to overfishing.
The Philippines is located within the coral triangle, at the center of the highest marine diversity in the world. It has the richest marine ecosystems, characterized by extensive coral reefs, sea-grass beds and dense mangroves.
But the irony is that, while it is rich in fisheries and coastal resources, among the poorest in our country are coastal communities, with 4 of 10 coastal residents living under poverty line.
This situation, along with the fact that the Philippines is considered an epicenter of biodiversity and evolution, demands special focus on marine conservation efforts.
However, conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity should not be concentrated in individual countries alone. Our nations are interconnected, and an ecosystems approach towards a more holistic, multisectoral, integrated and sustainable coastal management and fisheries, across countries, governments and communities will be beneficial to all.
We are not starting from scratch. We have ongoing programs in our own countries and in the region on coastal and marine biodiversity and management which have been contributing to efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries through various approaches such as protecting, conserving and rehabilitating habitats, supporting growth in the agriculture and fisheries sector, and building adaptive capacities of coastal communities and resilience of natural systems. Among these programs is the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).
The Philippines is one of the six countries in the CTI-CFF, a multilateral government partnership formed in 2009 to protect the Coral Triangle and to implement a Regional and National Plan of Action that:
- designates and manages seascapes;
- applies an ecosystem approach to fisheries management;
- establishes a fully functional marine protected area system;
- strengthens climate change adaptation and resilience; and
- improves the status of threatened marine species.
As different nations living in one planet, we need to unite towards the protection of our high seas and the responsible use of marine resources.
We need an UNCLOS agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
In closing, I wish to stress that we need marine life to support human life. Our lives are linked closely to the ocean and with the richness of its resources. We must make our oceans benefit us in a sustainable manner.
We must act now and work together to find the much-needed balance in using the resources of our oceans and protecting its biodiversity.
Thank you and good morning.