The oceans have rapidly gained prominence at the global stage in recent years, especially with the adoption and active efforts being undertaken in support of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 14 on Life Below Water. The East Asian Seas (EAS) region, being the world’s most diverse and fastest-growing region, plays a vital role in meeting this global target.
Recognizing the importance of oceans and the growing urgency to address issues concerning coastal and marine management and governance, the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) ensures that it carries out its mandate through one of its main operating mechanisms – the EAS Congress.
PEMSEA is an intergovernmental organization whose mission is to foster and sustain healthy and resilient oceans, coasts, communities, and economies across the shared seas of East Asia through integrated management solutions and partnerships. The Philippines is a proud member of the organization.
The EAS Congress serves as an international platform for dialogue, knowledge exchange, capacity-building, strategic action, and collaborative planning in advancing commitment and cooperation toward the achievement of the shared vision of a sustainable East Asian seas. It draws attention to good practices in integrated coastal marine (ICM)-related initiatives, particularly at the local level, and highlights locally initiated actions and innovations that essentially contribute to achieving regional and global environmental targets and commitments.
The Philippines, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), manifested its continuing commitment to and cooperation with PEMSEA by hosting the EAS Congress 2018 on 27-30 November 2018 in Iloilo City. The event was organized in collaboration with local governments of Iloilo and Guimaras.
The EAS Congress 2018 was the sixth in a series of EAS triennial ocean conference. It sought to usher in better, stronger, and smarter regional actions that were strategically aligned with key principles and targets of the global ocean agenda. It was also the second Philippine-hosted EAS Congress – the first being in 2009 in Manila.
The EAS Congress 2018 was one of the most crucial events and milestones in PEMSEA history, as it coincided with the 25th anniversary of PEMSEA. Carrying the theme, “25 Years of Partnerships for Healthy Oceans, People and Economies: Moving as One with the Global Ocean Agenda,” the EAS Congress 2018 featured the following events:
- Ocean Talk and SEA Exchange. The Ocean Talk and SEA Exchange were daily plenary events. The Ocean Talk featured keynote presentations from renowned experts/speakers covering key ocean issues. Each Ocean Talk was followed by SEA Exchange, where various respondents had the opportunity to share their insights and perspectives on the Ocean Talk topics.
- Partnership Hubs. Partnership Hubs were sessions and forums that involved sharing of experiences, best practices, innovative technologies, and strategic solutions, as well as identifying alternative opportunities for investment in sustainable development of coasts and oceans.
- Environmental Exhibition. The Exhibition showcased innovations and progress of organizations on various aspects of sustainable coastal and ocean management, including tools, technologies, products, experiences and actions in support of the UN SDGs.
- Ministerial Forum. The Ministerial Forum convened Ministers and senior government officials from the EAS countries, together with key representatives from international and regional organizations and non-country partners and collaborating organizations of PEMSEA.
- PEMSEA Network of Local Governments (PNLG) Forum. The PNLG Forum was conducted simultaneously with the Ministerial Forum. It reviewed the contributions and challenges of the PNLG members in meeting targets identified in UN SDGs. The Forum was held in Guimaras, a PEMSEA ICM site and PNLG member.
- EAS Youth Forum. The Youth Forum gathered young leaders to engage in coastal and ocean sustainability through interactions with global leaders in ocean and coastal management, peer-to-peer learning discussions, teambuilding and creative sessions.
- Field Visit. The provinces of Iloilo and Guimaras hosted the Field Visits to demonstrate their environmental initiatives and practices, as well as show their culture and delicacies.
As host of the EAS Congress 2018, the DENR pressed for communities and nations to unite in achieving the global ocean target. DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu remarked, “Knowing environmental issues are multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral and transboundary in nature, acting separately will only lead to complex problems that are very difficult for individual countries to solve.”
The EAS Congress 2018 was attended by almost 1,000 participants from 11 PEMSEA country partners (Cambodia, PR China, DPR Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Timor Leste, and Vietnam), Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, USA, Sweden, United Kingdom, Russia, as well as from 14 PEMSEA non-country partners, and other regional and international programs, projects and organizations.
The Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS) was part of the official Philippine delegation to the EAS Congress 2018. FASPS Director Lourdes C. Wagan served as the Alternate Chairperson of the Working Committee on PNLG and Field Visit, assisting Assistant Secretary Marcial C. Amaro, Principal Chairperson of the Committee, in overseeing the arrangement for the PNLG Forum and the Field Visits. FASPS also served as the Secretariat for the EAS Congress 2018. Headed by Ms. Jeslina B. Gorospe, the Secretariat Team provided support to Assistant Secretary Corazon C. Davis, Overall Chairperson of the EAS Congress 2018, and facilitated the mobilization of the DENR Working Committees, composed of various bureaus and offices of the Department, to ensure successful conduct of the EAS Congress 2018.
Drawing on past experiences of hosting events as big as this and with unwavering support from partners throughout the process – from preparatory works to the actual conduct of the event – the entire DENR organization steered the EAS Congress 2018 to open up opportunities for strengthening further the country’s partnership to help bring about healthy oceans, people and economies in the East Asian Seas region.
Cambodia will host the next EAS Congress in 2021. (FASPS/ Ma. Andrea D. Palma)