Cimatu touts PH efforts to protect butanding

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has cited the country’s gains in protecting the whale shark or butanding (Rhincodon typus), calling the local conservation effort a significant model worth emulating.

On the sidelines of the 12th Session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Cimatu took pride in the steps taken by various local government units (LGUs) that play hosts to the so-called “gentle giant of the sea,” particularly the town of Donsol in Sorsogon province.

The CMS event, happening from October 23 to 28 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, brings together more than 1,000 delegates from over 120 countries to strengthen existing actions for the conservation of migratory species and to formulate new measures to ensure their continuing survival.

Cimatu said the country’s hosting of the CMS meeting, which has been dubbed as the world’s largest wildlife conference in 2017, serves as a “great opportunity” for the Philippines to showcase local efforts to protect migratory species, especially the butanding.

“Our intensified information campaign and partnerships with LGUs and local communities are obviously bearing fruit and the international community is beginning to recognize our efforts to protect the butanding,” Cimatu said.

Last weekend, the CMS under its Migratory Species Champion Program named the Philippines as one of the five “migratory species champions” in the world for its exemplary contribution in global effort to protect migratory animals, particularly the butanding.

Cimatu said the DENR has been working closely with the local government of Donsol, which earlier issued a resolution declaring Donsol Bay a whale shark sanctuary, to ensure continued protection of the area.

Aside from Donsol, butanding sightings have also been recorded in Tubbataha Reefs in Palawan and Oslob, Cebu.

Butanding has boosted tourism in Sorsogon and Cebu provinces, where tourists are given a chance to swim with the gentle giant.

To provide wider protection for the butanding, the Philippines — through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources — has filed before the CMS Secretariat a resolution seeking its uplisting to Appendix I of the CMS.

Appendix I consists of migratory species that have been assessed as facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.

The whale shark is currently listed under Appendix II of the CMS, which covers migratory species that have unfavorable conservation status and that require international agreements for their conservation and management.

Known as the largest known fish species in existence, the whale shark travels across national boundaries and moves from national economic zones into the high seas.

Its global migration routes include Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal and Tanzania.

According to Cimatu, international cooperation between the range states that the whale shark traverses is necessary to ensure its protection.

“The whale shark passes in between countries, so it is very important that we join the efforts of the international community and our neighboring countries in the ASEAN region to uphold their conservation and protection,” Cimatu said. #