The Philippines actively participated in the celebration of the 3rd International Year of the Reef 2018 under the theme, “Together in Protecting Our Reefs”.
The Philippine Government, through the initiatives under the Coastal and Marine
Ecosystems Management Program (CMEMP) of the DENR-Biodiversity Management
Bureau (BMB), launched the IYOR on the 12th of February 2018 at EDSA Shangri-La, Mandaluyong City. It did not just start-off the year-long celebration of this global event, but most importantly, it aimed for a renewed partnership and cooperation among valued partners towards long term protection and conservation of their coral reef ecosystems.
Throughout the year-long celebration, different agencies have conducted activities to
address threats to coral reefs. Including marine debris, illegal fishing, unsustainable tourism and other land-based threats. IYOR Partners have also emphasized the need for science, education and capacity building in response to said threats.
DENR-BMB, as the focal agency for the celebration, advocated and supported coral
reef conservation via major IYOR activities. One of the biggest, current threats to the Philippines coastal and marine ecosystems is plastic pollution. Thus, DENR, together with UNDP, SmartSeas and CORA, launched the CleanSeas Pilipinas campaign in May 2018 which aims to identify local and national partners and academic institutions to mobilize Filipinos all over the country to reduce
Unfortunately, proper waste management has not always been the attitude of Filipinos;
as one of the world-renowned destinations, Boracay, was the victim of unsustainable tourism, management, and pollution of all sorts- plastics, solid and liquid waste, or sewage. This called for intervention and stricter enforcement of environmental laws in the island- from easements, to waste management, to sewage treatment. After the 6-month closure for rehabilitation, the island was opened again for tourists in October 2018.
Last year, the Philippines secured an opportunity to prove the value it places on the
conservation of coral reefs. The Philippines is fortunate to have shared with the world the
Philippine Rise, which hosts some of the most expansive and pristine coral reefs of the
country. With the declaration of the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve under the
National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) on May 2018, Filipinos are now, more than ever, responsible for its protection and management for the benefit of the
present and future generations. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Biodiversity Management Bureau worked together towards a stronger partnership by hosting a series of meetings and workshops.
During 2018 The Philippines hosted the 4th Asia Pacific Coral Reef Symposium in May, East Asian Seas Congress in November, and the Coral Triangle Initiative Senior Officials and Ministerial
Meeting in December.
To officially close the celebration, an IYOR Culmination Night was conducted on 31 January 2019 at the Diamond Hotel, Manila. BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez commended the partners who contributed in the National IYOR Roadmap and shared how IYOR not only created a platform for
sharing ideas but also formed a community bound with a common vision and passion
for the ocean.
DENR Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna presented the major accomplishments of the
Philippines and thanked the partners on the concerted efforts towards coral reef management. He also called the support of the agencies present for the Manila Bay Rehabilitation which he considered as another opportunity for multi-sectoral cooperation, and ultimately for mainstreaming biodiversity conservation into society and into the lives of everyday Filipinos.
Aside from the recognition of partners, the event also highlighted the launching of the Operational Plan of the convergence of BFAR and BMB. Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona of BFAR shared how timely the convergence of the agencies was, as a bountiful fish catch is associated with healthy coastal and marine ecosystems. Director Rodriguez hopes the convergence will be a catalyst for a broader harmonization with other agencies working for the coastal and marine sector in the future.
“Although we are culminating the International Year of the Reef, our efforts must only
progress, and not end with this global event. Let us continue to integrate the values of
coral reef conservation into the development of the Philippines”, Undersecretary Cuna added.