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Saving the seas of East Asia

Saving the seas of East AsiaThe EAS Congress is an intellectual marketplace to convene partners, collaborators, and stakeholders within and outside the region.

Starting today, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, and culminating on Friday, Nov. 30, the East Asian Seas Congress will convene in Iloilo City. The EAS plays a vital role as an intellectual marketplace to convene partners, collaborators, and stakeholders within and outside East Asia in sharing knowledge and experiences, in discussing trends, challenges, and developments, in building stronger partnerships, and in charting future and sustainable plans for ocean governance in the region. It is hosted by the Government of the Philippines, organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) and supported by the Global Environmental Facility, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Provincial and City Governments of Iloilo. In addition, the Congress will have several partnership hub conveners, including the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM), Ocean Policy Research Institute- Sasakawa Peace Foundation (OPRI-SPF), International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI), International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), RARE Philippines, Xiamen University, Florida International University, and others.

The EAS Congress will celebrate 25 years of the leadership of the PEMSEA in ocean governance for the region. PEMSEA was created with and have lived up to its mission—to foster and sustain healthy and resilient coasts and oceans, communities and economies across the Seas of East Asia through integrated management solutions and partnerships. A regional intergovernmental organization based in the Philippines, PEMSEA was funded by the Global Environmental Facility in the early 1990s. Dr. Chua, who is now the Chair Emeritus of the East Asian Seas Partnership Council, hired me to be the legal expert supporting PEMSEA in its earliest years and since then I have been involved with PEMSEA in various capacities, including as the current chair of the Partnership Council.  

For over two decades, PEMSEA has provided solutions for effective management of coasts and oceans across the shared seas of East Asia. We aim to proactively build effective intergovernmental and intersectoral partnerships and expand the capacities of countries and other stakeholders with innovative, cross-cutting policies, tools, and services for integrated coastal and ocean management. Among others, PEMSEA applies integrated coastal management (ICM) as our primary approach for generating and sustaining healthy oceans, people and economies.

PEMSEA was built on partnerships. For over two decades, its Country and Civil Society Partners have worked together, planning and implementing strategies for the sustainable development of coasts and oceans across the region. Eleven governments are our official partners: Cambodia, China, South Korea, North Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam.

As our Executive Director Aimee Gonzales has pointed out, in June 2017, the United Nations gathered members of the international community to appeal for support in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. At this conference, PEMSEA was recognized as a significant regional body for its role in the East Asian region. PEMSEA’s work in scaling up the integrated coastal management in East Asia and partnerships with national and local governments, international organizations, intergovernmental institutions, and other stakeholders were commended as relevant contributions to SDG 14.

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 is open to a broad range of stakeholders including National and Local Governments, the United Nations system, intergovernmental organizations, bilateral and multilateral projects, international financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions, the scientific community, the private sector, and other stakeholders. We are in Iloilo to share what actions we’ve taken, what good practices and lessons we can share, not only with each other, but to the rest of the world.

The goals we set for ourselves include: (a) Mapping and aligning the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA) and other sub-regional and regional strategies and action plans with the SDG 14 targets; (b) Sharing experiences and assessing challenges and opportunities related to the implementation of the SDS-SEA at the regional, national and local levels including innovative policies and technologies, good management practices, and investment opportunities; (c) Building on existing partnerships and achievements and promoting new initiatives, investments and partnerships to accelerate the achievement of national, regional and global targets for sustainable development of oceans and coasts; (d) Tracking blue economy development and growth across the region with the launching of national, sub-regional and regional State of Oceans and Coasts Reports; and (e) Contributing to the planning and development of an ocean investment facility to leverage increased public and private sector investments in ocean-based blue economy development and growth.

These are all challenging tasks, but PEMSEA has proven time and again that it is well-equipped and more than capable of doing hard things. Through the years, PEMSEA has forged and strengthened partnerships with and between local and national governments, the academe, regional and global entities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, women’s and youth organizations, donor agencies and others. By fostering relationships and engagement at the local level, this bottom-up approach has created real and lasting impacts on the ground, particularly in various ICM sites. Encouraging results on the local front motivate collaborators on the national level to adopt more measures on conservation and sustainability, resulting in better linkages with national government agencies and the utilization of country-specific SDS-SEA plans.

The SDGs, in particular, have obvious synergies with the implementation of the SDS-SEA. Five of the 17 SDGs are aligned with what PEMSEA has been working towards. SDG 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities, SDG 13 on Climate Action, SDG 17 on Partnerships and SDG 14 on Life Below Water.

PEMSEA countries respond to SDG 14, in particular, by establishing national ocean policy and legislation for the conservation and management of biological diversity, sustainable fisheries, management of habitats and protected areas, and safeguarding rare and endangered species. Efforts from ICM sites and the PEMSEA Network of Local Governments, or PNLG are contributing to all the same five SDGs, particularly to SDG 11 as they continue to implement and promote ICM and blue economy at the local level to promote sustainable cities and communities that are able to provide residents with safe water and sanitation services, climate-smart housing and transportation, and sustainable energy.

Through the EAS Congress, as Ms. Gonzales emphasizes, we aim to advance and align our commitment to the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia with the global ocean agenda. Through the 6th Ministerial Forum, according to Ms. Gonzales, we hope to engage ministers and heads of international institutions in a high-level dialogue to tackle persistent and emerging issues and to adopt the region’s next five-year plan of action in support of scaling up the implementation of the region’s common sustainable development strategy.

The EAS Congress 2018 is, of course, a great opportunity for knowledge and experience sharing, partnership building, and collaborative planning with various participants from governments, organizations, the academe, the private sector, youth and women. Among its highlights will be the Fifth East Asian Seas Congress Youth Forum (YF5) which serves as a platform for young leaders to engage in coastal and ocean sustainability. Recognizing the importance of continued and deeper youth engagement in our drive towards sustainable coasts and oceans, the YF5 aims to launch an EAS Youth Programme that enables the youth of the region to contribute to integrated coastal management (ICM) implementation at the local level, provides access to more learning opportunities and empowers youth to serve as ocean champions in their respective universities and communities.

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Topics: East Asian Seas Congress , Department of Environment and Natural Resources , Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia
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