Cimatu: PH all set to host global meet on migratory species

The Philippines is all set with its hosting of the international conference aimed at protecting migratory species and their habitats, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu announced on Friday.

Dubbed as the world's largest wildlife conference in 2017, the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMSCOP12) will be held in Manila from October 23 to 28.

Preceding the conference is a high level meeting of environment leaders, including ministers of member-countries and executives of international organizations and goodwill ambassadors, to discuss the interlinkages between sustainable development and the conservation of wildlife with special focus on migratory species and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

More than 900 delegates from 124 member-countries are expected to participate in the conference, which has for its theme:  Their Future is Our Future – Sustainable Development for Wildlife and People.

Cimatu said the Philippine delegation headed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will push for the inclusion of five migratory wildlife species to the CMS appendices, namely the Whale shark, Christmas frigatebird, White-spotted wedgefish, Black noddy and the Yellow bunting. 

Cimatu said the event will serve as an opportunity for the country to call for more protection for migratory sites and species, particularly the Whale shark (Rhincodon typus), or locally known as butanding.

“The Philippines is one of the nations visited by the Whale Shark. In fact, the so-called ‘gentle giant’ has boosted tourism in some provinces, including Sorsogon and Cebu, where tourists have the opportunity to see and enjoy close encounter with the world's largest fish,” he said.

According to the environment chief, the Philippine delegation will campaign for the inclusion of the Whale Shark in CMS species’ list under Appendix I, while retaining its listing in Appendix II.

Appendix I covers migratory species that have been assessed as being in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range, thus, require national conservation actions to ensure their survival. 

The Whale Shark is included in CMS Appendix II listing since 1999.  Migratory species under Appendix II have unfavorable conservation status and require international agreements and commitments for their conservation and management.

"Our position is pursuant to efforts of like-minded nations to have a global ban on whale shark hunting," Cimatu said.

Aside from the Whale Shark, Cimatu said the Philippines will also push for the inclusion of four other migratory species, namely: Christmas Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi), also under Appendix I; White-spotted Wedgefish  (Rhynchbatus  australiae), Black Noddy (Anousminutus)  and Yellow Bunting (Emberiza sulphurata), all under Appendix II. All these species have been sighted in various parts of the Philippines.

The CMS bans commercial capture and use of species listed under Appendix I, and requires parties to develop management strategies to protect species listed under Appendix II from overexploitation.

Cimatu said the Philippine delegation will also push for the Manila Declaration that would call on world leaders to take broad and coordinated action to protect the habitats of migratory species within their respective territories.

The delegation will also call for the adoption of a resolution urging member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to implement marine biodiversity conservation initiatives through the promotion of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) at the local and regional levels.

"While there has been notable increase in the number of MPAs in the region, the need to build up a regional connectivity of these areas among ASEAN member nations remains a challenge," Cimatu pointed out.

The Philippines is the only country in the ASEAN that is a party to the CMS, which now has 124 contracting party states.

Once the proposed resolution is adopted, there will soon be a framework for tighter collaboration on marine conservation by CMS party states and "range countries" or non-CMS member nations that host habitats of migratory species.

The Philippine delegation has likewise submitted draft resolutions calling for a concerted action for the Whale shark, promoting sustainable tourism involving migratory species and the need to conserve critical intertidal and other coastal habitats for migratory species. ###

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