Eleven countries in the East Asia region have pledged to strengthen and improve their cooperation in making their coasts and oceans resilient to climate change as they signed the Manila Declaration on the implementation of integrated coastal and ocean management and adaptation to climate change.
The Philippines as well as our neighbor East Asian countries are climate change hotspots and highly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. It is imperative that we protect, conserve and sustainably use our rich natural resources, especially our coastal and marine resources.
The Manila Declaration was adopted on Nov. 26 at the culmination of the five-day East Asian Seas Congress held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila.
The 11 countries participating in the Partnerships in the Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) and have signed the declaration were Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, RO Korea, Singapore, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and the Philippines.
By signing, the countries have jointly pledged to intensify cooperation and engage involvement of local government units within all member countries to enhance capacity of coastal communities to adapt to climate change.
Through the Manila Declaration, these governments have expressed concern towards the region’s vulnerability to various impacts of climate change which include frequent and extreme weather events, flooding, water shortage, acidification of oceans and seas, salt water intrusion and sea level rise.
In addition, the region’s marine ecosystems continue to be threatened by uncontrolled development of coastal areas, poverty, resource degradation and marine pollution from land and sea-based sources.
The governments have also recognized that integrated coastal management (ICM) is a valuable tool in achieving sustainable development and climate change adaptation and committed to work together constructively to meet their regional targets to implement ICM programs in at least 20 percent of the region’s coasts and adopt national coastal and ocean policies in 70 percent of the countries by 2015.
It is very critical for governments to give attention not only on the impacts of climate change but also on the role of oceans and coasts in climate change. Healthy and productive coastal ecosystems play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change in coastal communities.
The coastal and marine environments of East Asia occupy over 70% of the globe and 95% of the biosphere. They sustain 30% of the world’s coral reefs and mangroves and produce about 40% of the world’s fish catch and 84% of world’s aquaculture. They also represent one of the world’s centers for tropical marine biodiversity.
Coastal ecosystems include mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, algal mats and coral reefs which absorb carbon. Oceans, on the other hand, function as giant carbon pumps which take carbon from and release to the atmosphere.