Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje on Thursday called on development agencies, private sector and the various stakeholders to expand the base of support for the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI).

This, even as he reiterated the government’s commitment to the goals of the CTI Regional Plan of Action during the CTI High-Level Financial Round Table meeting held as a side event of the 45th Asian Development Bank (ADB) Board of Governors meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila.

“As an active partner country in the CTI, the Philippines is committed to fulfilling the goals of the CTI Regional Action Plan. Our national plan of action has been implemented in sites strategically selected by the National CTI Coordination Committee, the field implementers, our development partners and academic and research institutions,” Paje said.

However, he said that despite the country’s achievements in coastal and marine conservation as a result of the CTI action plan, there remains “challenges that beset us”. One of these challenges, according to him, was the sustainability issue associated with the lack of funding support for the implementation of projects under the action plan.

He cited five priority projects up for investment, namely, establishment of the CTI-Philippines Endowment Fund, designing a coastal and marine-based payment for ecological services; the reversion of abandoned, unutilized and undeveloped fishponds into mangrove forests as a climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy; enhancement of the monitoring system through the establishment of a national coastal and marine database through an integrated information management system; and the establishment of a national integrated coastal and management program to develop the country’s coastal areas and improve the quality of life in coastal communities.

According to him, the priority projects, with funding requirements of around US$186 million, are intended to enhance the protection and development of the country’s coastal and marine resources.

Of the total, Paje said the government could provide a guaranteed counterpart of 30 percent or US$55.8 million.

Paje said the establishment of the endowment fund will address the financial requirements and encourage the multi-stakeholder involvement in CTI projects nationwide. The proposal to design a coastal and marine-based payment scheme for the ecological services of the coastal and marine ecosystems is expected to enhance local capacity toward the effective management, protection and conservation of their resources.

Paje also expounded the inclusion of mangrove rehabilitation as priority investment opportunity in the country. According to him, the project will serve as a climate change mitigation strategy that would involve the reversion of abandoned, un-utilized and un-developed fishponds into protection and productive mangrove forests.

To enhance the country’s coastal and marine monitoring system and provide the data needed for decision-making, Paje also sought funding support for the establishment of a national coastal and marine database through an integrated information management system.

He also requested for funding support the establishment of a national integrated coastal management program in the country for the uplift of the quality of life of coastal communities. The program, according him, will have a structured framework with targets on governance, scaling up, sustainable financing, capacity building, and the establishment of learning networks.

The Coral Triangle is a geographical region that roughly forms a triangle around six countries, namely the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. The region is known as the center of marine biodiversity with its high concentration of varied species of coral reef and fishes.

Compared with other countries, the Philippines lies entirely within and at the apex of the Coral Triangle.