Iloilo City, Philippines – Selected ICLEI members from the Philippines took center stage in a session led by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability Southeast Asia Secretariat (ICLEI SEAS) during the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress 2018 held 28 November.
Titled Turning Blue: The Role of Local Governments in Forwarding Blue Carbon Solutions towards Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, the session highlighted the crucial role that local governments play in protecting and conserving the environment, particularly our seas, and how such initiatives help respond to the adverse impacts of climate change. Organized with support from the Forest Foundation Philippines, the activity discussed innovative strategies local governments implement to support integrated marine resource management.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Undersecretary for Attached Agencies and Supervising Undersecretary for the Manila Bay Coordinating Office Shermin Rigor officially opened the session, expressing gratitude for the continuous support and partnership of all stakeholders present. Resource speakers came from Tubigon, Bohol; Dumangas, Iloilo; Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and the province of Oriental Mindoro. To elicit more interaction between speakers and participants, guided marketplace and panel discussion were employed during the session.
Mayor Ronaldo Golez of Dumangas, Iloilo explained the municipality’s Integrated Coastal Resource Management (ICRM), citing that this strategy resulted in the planting of 209,787 mangroves from 2012 to 2018. A total of 89.134 hectares has been declared as Marine Protected Area (MPA)* in 2014. ICRM is a good example of ecosystem-based adaptation being implemented by a number of coastal cities and municipalities in the country.
For the province of Oriental Mindoro (ICLEI network local government), Senior Aquaculturist Ms. Rhodora Ramiento, featured the province’s MPA and Fishery Law Enforcement Network. Within the network’s 310,789 hectares, there are 34 MPAs protecting 6,786.51 hectares of valuable mangroves, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. The network also enforces the two-month seasonal closure for fisheries to allow the ecosystem to rest and regenerate. Based on studies, it is estimated that the Network’s annual carbon sequestration potential is over 3.7 Gt.
Engr. Noel Mendaña, Municipal Planning and Development Officer of Tubigon, Bohol talked about the Tubigon Group of Island Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve and Wilderness Area (TGIMSFRW) which consists of five small islands declared as a protected area under the DENR’s National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS). The TGIMSFRW also hosts four community-based MPAs. The forest reserve’s establishment gave birth to ecotourism opportunities in host barangays, providing the locals with alternative livelihood when they could not fish.
Promoting affinity with nature, Ms. Zorina Arellano Senior Environmental Management Specialist, City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Puerto Princesa shared the city’s Love Affair with Nature, an annual event which combines a mass wedding ceremony and a mangrove planting activity. After 16 years of implementation, the program has successfully planted more than 130,000 mangrove propagules and rehabilitated at least 90 hectares of mangrove forests.
Dr. Emma Porio and Dr. Noralene Uy also presented a poster tackling the Coastal Cities at Risk in the Philippines (CCAR). This project aims to enhance the capacity of cities in Metro Manila, Iloilo, and Naga through promoting better understanding and dynamics of climate and disaster risk.
Following the sharing of local-led initiatives on marine resource management, ICLEI SEAS Regional Director Vic Aquitania led a brief panel discussion with the speakers. Key takeaways included 1) the need to improve community engagement and promote the community’s ownership of environment-related activities; 2) importance of mainstreaming integrated coastal resource management into local government plans i.e. Local Climate Change Action Plan, Comprehensive Land Use Plan, City Development Plan, and others; and 3) strengthening vertical integration to ensure local governments’ strategies are in line with national thrusts and priorities.
On a broader scale, this session showcased concrete local strategies that directly respond to various Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) such as SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 14 (Life Below Water), and 17 (Partnerships for the goals).
Putting emphasis on the value of community participation, Mayor Golez stated, “Community awareness and engagement is a significant ingredient to the success of any environment-related activity. In this regard, we are keen on raising awareness about this issue and encouraging our stakeholders to be involved in what we are doing to protect the environment.”
Carrying the theme, “25 Years of Partnerships for Healthy Oceans, People and Economies: Moving as One with the Global Ocean Agenda”, the EAS Congress 2018 successfully convened national and local governments, international finance institutions, civil society organizations, academic institutions, and others to scale up the discussions about East Asia’s plans and strategies to support SDG 14: Life Below Water and other key issues of sustainable marine resource management. The forum also aimed to track blue economy development and growth across the region and officially launched the East Asia’s State of Oceans and Coasts Reports.
The forum was organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Provincial Government of Iloilo.
*The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a marine protected area as a “clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed to achieve long-term conservation of nature.” MPAs play a significant role in marine resource management as they often include barrier ecosystems of coral reefs and mangroves, protecting coastal communities from effects of natural disasters while serving as nurseries for a thriving marine life.