REFERRED to as the “Amazon of the Seas,“ the Coral Triangle is a delicate ecosystem covering one-fourth of the world’s islands and spans the seas of six countries the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste. Home to 27,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the area is the global center of marine diversity.
At the heart of the Coral Triangle is the Philippines, the second largest archipelago in the world and the only nation completely within the triangle. It is not surprising that in the evolution of all marine species in this planet, the Philippines came out with the most diverse marine life, with over 500 species of reef-building corals spread throughout its 36,289 kilometers of coast.
Over the last 20 years, however, scientists and philanthropists alike have sounded the warning call for the 5.7 million square kilometer Coral Triangle, where more than 120 million people live and work. Harmful practices such as chemical pollution, acidification and destructive fishing plague its coral reefs. In the Philippines alone, healthy coral reefs have been reduced to an alarming 30%.
It is thus a welcome development that the Philippine government hosted a five-day international conference that saw scientific and policy experts come together to address the issue of landbased activities and how these activities affect marine and coastal environments.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), organized this first Global Conference on LandOcean Connections (GLOC), held from Jan. 23 to today (Jan. 27), and joined by 200 foreign delegates, 40 environment ministers and 300 government and non-government delegates.
Perhaps, the most important development in the five-day summit is the adoption of the Manila Declaration as a contribution to the Rio+20, the high-level United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that will be held on June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In the words of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, the Manila Declaration is the “perfect symbol“ of the country’s support and commitment to the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, which can likewise be considered a multilateral initiative to improve health services and reduce poverty, while rescuing critical ecosystems.