Biggest wildlife confab of the year opens in Manila

The biggest wildlife conservation meeting for the year opened Monday at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

The event, dubbed the 12th Session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or CMS-COP12, brings together experts, advocates, and policymakers alike from more than 120 countries worldwide to discuss the direct link between migratory wildlife species and humans.

Discussions for the conference, which will run until October 28, are based on the theme, “Their Future is Our Future – Sustainable Development for Wildlife and People”.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, representing the host country, expressed elation and pride in being able to host the COP12, which is being held for the first time in Asia.

He presented the country’s programs that contribute to the global conservation of migratory species and their habitats, and urged stronger ties among members of the CMS to achieve the convention’s goals.

He likewise encouraged other countries, especially the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) community, to be part of “this very vital cooperation platform on migratory species.”

The CMS is a framework convention adopted by 124 countries for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.

CMS Executive Secretary Bradnee Chambers said that a “record number of signatories” were present during the COP12, along with 24 observers or non-signatory states.

Chambers said that the CMS is expecting the Dominican Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina to become signatories to the convention by yearend.

“For too long, wildlife conservation has been in the sidelines. But it belongs to the mainstream, like health and agriculture,” he said.

“The connection of wildlife and people is the key message of this conference,” Chambers added.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate environment and natural resources committee, welcomed the participants and delegates by showcasing the megadiverse richness of the Philippines.

“The Philippines’ rich biodiversity is a source of pride and joy for all of us Filipinos,” she said.

She also presented pending legislations aimed at protecting flora and fauna, particularly the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, from various threats and the need to address them.

“Time is of great essence in protecting and rehabilitating the environment,” she stressed.

Others who spoke during the opening were United Nations Environment Programme Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretary General John Scanlon; and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Cristina Pasca Palma.

Thiaw urged CMS parties to invest more in conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and ensure that benefits derived from biodiversity are shared more equitably especially among the poor.

Scanlon discussed the links between CITES and CMS, citing how the two complemented each other because of common species listed and protected under them.

Meanwhile, Palma commended the CMS for “moving in the right direction” with targets that correspond to the Aichi biodiversity targets for 2011-2020.

“Efforts are delivering practical and measurable results,” she stated.

The conference will also see participants break out into smaller groups to attend separate discussions on various issues affecting conservation of migratory species.

These issues include marine or underwater noise, marine debris, boat-based and “swim with” ecotourism activities, and illegal killing of migratory birds. ### 

Global collective action vs marine pollution sought at Manila wildlife meet

Environment ministers and representatives from governments, international organizations, business sector and civil society on Sunday called for a global unified action to combat marine pollution and reduce its impact on migratory animals, and humans in general.

The call was made during the Leaders’ Breakfast Meeting held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, the venue of the 12th Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, or CMS-COP12.

CMS-COP12 is dubbed as the world’s largest wildlife conference in 2017 and it is happening for the first time in Asia, with the Philippines as the host country. Adopted by over 120 nations, the CMS is the only global intergovernmental treaty established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.

Philippine Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, who welcomed the delegates, described marine pollution as a “decades-long global, persistent and growing concern.”

According to Cimatu, marine debris impacts more than 800 wildlife species and this number may still go up as complex issues, including microplastics, still need to be investigated.

Cimatu noted that current efforts to solve the marine debris problem in the Philippines include incorporating integrated coastal management strategies into resource use and development plans of local government units (LGUs).

He said that several bills have been filed in Congress to ban, phase out, tax, or regulate the use of plastic bags in the country. While these are pending, some LGUs and other sectors have already initiated the use of commercially viable and environment-friendly plastic alternatives.

The Philippines also continues to actively participate in the International Coastal Cleanup, where engaging people often leads to positive behavioral change, he said.

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw warned that plastics on land that make it into the oceans break down into microplastics and eventually end up in food humans eat when digested by marine animals.

CMS Executive Secretary Bradnee Chambers pointed to marine debris, lead ammunition, and pesticides as the biggest contributors to marine pollution.

Through the course of the meeting, the participants agreed that while “there is an avalanche of data” on marine pollution, there is a need to translate such data into relevant policies.

These policies, however, could only be implemented with strong political will and after being communicated well to all stakeholders.

Thiaw said there was also a need for “a bigger coalition” that would bring together all relevant parties and partners to address the issue of pollution, citing the Minama Convention on Mercury as an example.

Thiaw said that while he could see the level of commitment, ongoing actions to help address the issue of marine pollution were “not adding up.”

“We need a change in the course of action. Governments alone cannot address pollution,” he stressed.

It was also highlighted that banning plastics was not really the issue, as plastics also bring benefits such as reducing the need to cut wood. The bigger issue was in disposing plastic products.

The need to recycle more in order to reduce plastic pollution was highlighted further when Peter Nitschke of Canada-based The Plastic Bank cited the case of Metro Manila, where “a third of the waste is recyclable but only 10 percent of the waste is actually being recycled.”

The Plastic Bank is an organization that aims to address the plastic pollution problem and convert it as “currency” for the underprivileged in poor communities.

In Ecuador, which hosted the CMS-COP11 in 2014, abandoned fishing gears constitute the biggest type of marine debris in its waters.

The Conference of Parties is the convention's main decision-making body, and meets every three years to adopt policies and laws and propose new species under the framework.# 

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