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The Philippines is rich in marine biodiversity, located within the “Coral Triangle”, a global center of marine diversity, with diverse coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves, fisheries, and marine mammals. The Verde Island Passage has been identified as the “center of centers” of marine shorefish biodiversity due to its higher concentration of species per unit area than anywhere in Indonesia and Wallacea. According to an initial 2008 study, there are 123 marine key biodiversity areas in the country, which are host to 221 globally threatened species of fish, corals, mollusks, sea turtles, and marine mammals.

The Philippines is also home to nine marine biodiversity corridors, which provide transition areas between marine bio-geographic regions and are strategically important as gateways in sustaining balance between marine ecosystems and fisheries.

The primary response of the government to protect its rich marine biodiversity has been the establishment of marine protected areas (MPA) or fish sanctuaries, as mandated by two national laws, the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (NIPAS) (RA 7586) and the Fisheries Code of the Philippines (RA 8550 as amended by RA 10654). There are currently only 33 MPAs under NIPAS, which are under national government management through a Protected Area Management Board, and 1,620 locally-managed MPAs under the Fisheries Code. However, destructive fishing, pollution from coastal and commercial development, unsustainable agricultural practices, conversion, extractive industries, and other threats continue to jeopardize the country’s fragile coastal ecosystem.

The Philippines is also considered one of the world’s top fish production countries. However, until the pressure on fishing is reduced and addressed in different parts of the country, a fish production shortage is foreseen as one of the major consequences to affect food security. Multi-sectoral efforts are underway to provide alternative, biodiversity-friendly livelihoods for fisherfolks.

Concerted efforts are being made to manage the seas and oceans sustainably while improving the lives of coastal communities in the Philippines, especially the marginalized fisherfolks, women, and indigenous groups. This will be achieved through collaboration of key national government agencies, civil society organizations (CSOs), LGUs, and the private sector.

To support The Ocean Conference, 5-9 June, the Philippine government will convene stakeholders including concerned agencies, CSOs, the private sector, international development organizations, and higher education institutions to lobby and set concrete commitments to achieve the SDG 14 targets at the national level.

Photo © SMARTSeas PH

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United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)