The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), with support from the US Department of State and The Asia Foundation (TAF), held a Seminar-Workshop on Coastal and Marine Environment Protection and the Role for ASEAN 2017 on 30–31 January 2017 at the Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. The event aligned with two of the Philippines’ thematic priorities for its 2017 ASEAN chairmanship, which are “Maritime Security and Cooperation” and “A Resilient ASEAN.”
Attended by participants from various government agencies, academic institutions, international organizations, non-government organizations, and private sector groups involved in marine environment protection, the seminar-workshop aimed to raise awareness and understanding the current condition of the marine environment in Southeast Asia and the policies designed to protect it through four sessions of presentations on the first day and a workshop on the second day.
On the first day, Dr. Liana Talaue-McManus (UNEP-GEF [UN Environment Program–Global Environment Facility] Transboundary Waters Assessment Program), Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan (De La Salle University), and Ret. Cmdre. Eduardo B. Gongona (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources [BFAR]) examined the condition of the coastal and marine environment in the Philippines and Southeast Asia and the challenges and opportunities it faces.
Following this, Dr. Mark J. Spalding (The Ocean Foundation), Dr. Vincent Hilomen (DENR Marine Key Biodiversity Areas Project), and Mr. Gongona (BFAR) gave an assessment of various international, regional, and national policies on coastal and marine environment protection already in place, while LCDR Ernesto Lazaro Valdez (Philippine Coast Guard) and Engr. Ramon C. Hernandez (Maritime Industry Authority) presented the programs and activities of their agencies that implement and support those policies.
In the third session, Ms. Cheryl Rita Kaur (Maritime Institute of Malaysia [MIMA]), Atty. Roberto V. Oliva (ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity), and Mr. Adrian Ross (Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia [PEMSEA]) talked about ASEAN and other related regional programs on coastal and marine environment protection.
Finally, Mr. John Pontillas (Palawan Council for Sustainable Development), PSUPT Crisostomo L. Ubac (Philippine National Police–Maritime Group), and Engr. Joselito Y. Cortes of (KEPCO llijan Corporation) presented the best practices on coastal and marine environment protection of their respective institutions that can be replicated at the national and regional levels.
On the second day, the participants were divided into two groups to discuss the gaps on coastal and marine environment protection at the national and regional levels, identify possible initiatives that the Philippines can champion as ASEAN Chair for 2017, and propose possible elements that can be included in an ASEAN statement on the issue.
In the two days of the seminar-workshop, it was highlighted that economic development in the region largely depends on the health of its marine resources as the ocean is crucial not only for the transport of goods and services but also, more importantly, for food security. Harmonization of laws, rationalization of mandates and institutions, and enhanced coordination at the national and regional levels are necessary to address threats to marine environment. The role of ASEAN is crucial not only in promoting and integrating efforts to protect the coastal and marine environment in the region, but also in solidifying the commitment of its member-states toward sustainable development.