PH named among world’s ‘migratory species champions’

The Philippines has been named as one of the five “migratory species champions” in the world for its exemplary contribution in the global effort to protect migratory animals, particularly the whale shark or butanding.

Also recognized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) were the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the European Commission, Germany and Monaco.

The awarding ceremony, dubbed “Champions’ Night,” was held last Sunday, the eve of the six-day 12th Session of the Conference of Parties to CMS (COP12) happening in Manila from October 23 to 28.

Environment Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia accepted on behalf of the country the award, which recognizes the Philippines for its efforts to conserve the whale shark (Rhincodon typus).

Garcia, who is also the chief of staff of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, said the so-called “gentle giants of the sea” has become an important component of the country’s growing wildlife tourism industry, which contributed 8.2 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.

Speaking on behalf of Cimatu, Garcia expressed hope the Philippines and other “champions” will inspire other parties to the CMS to contribute to the global effort to conserve migratory species and their habitats.

“We need more champions in our continuing fight against wildlife hunting, habitat loss, pollution and wildlife trade,” Garcia said.

The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi was recognized for its contribution in the conservation of dugongs and their habitats, and the birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia from 2015 to 2019.

Dr. Abdullah Eisa Zamzam, the agency’s assistant secretary for operations, underscored the need for concerted efforts amoung nations to protect migratory species.

“No matter how committed and well-resourced our country may be, long-term conservation of migratory animals can only be achieved by engaging with other countries through international cooperation and closely coordinating conservation activities across each species’ range,” Zamzam said.

Stefan Leiner, head of the biodiversity unit of the European Commission and head of the European Union delegation, accepted the “Champion Plus” award for the commission for its task force on illegal killing, taking and trade of migratory birds in the Mediterranean.

The Federal Republic of Germany was honored for reconciling energy sector developments with migratory species conservation. Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, parliamentary state secretary at the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, accepted the award on behalf of the German government.

“A holistically sustainable transformation of the energy system can only be achieved if it takes place in harmony with nature. This is why we are fully dedicated to the important work of the CMS Energy Task Force that is working towards that aim,” Sutter said.

Meanwhile, the Principality of Monaco was commended for its commitment to marine species conservation for the years 2018 to 2020.

Launched in 2014, the Migratory Species Champion Program under the CMS is open to governments, companies, organizations and individuals willing to make a financial commitment of at least three years for one or more specific initiatives that fall under the CMS family umbrella.

It offers initiatives that contribute to the implementation of a large program targeting a species, a group of species or a cross-cutting issue. # 

Cimatu: PH ready to lead ASEAN in migratory species conservation

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the Philippines is ready to lead efforts in the ASEAN region to protect migratory wildlife species throughout their range and across national borders.

Cimatu made the statement as the country plays host to the 12th Session of Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which has been dubbed as the world’s largest wildlife conference in 2017.

This marks the first time the CMS meeting, which runs from October 23 to 28 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, is held in Asia. More than 1,000 delegates from over 120 countries are attending the event.

“As host of this triennial COP meeting, and this being touted as the most attended ever for the CMS, the Philippines will consider this event a great opportunity to show to the ASEAN community and the rest of the world the importance of the country and the region in protecting migratory species and safeguarding their habitats throughout their journey and range,” Cimatu told a press conference held last Monday.

As the only ASEAN country that is party to the CMS, Cimatu said the Philippines needs to work harder to ensure that the region’s migratory species and the habitats critical to their survival are protected.

“Right now, we are the only member-state in the ASEAN region, that’s why we are encouraging other members to join the CMS,” Cimatu said.

At the same time, the environment chief said the Philippines remains committed to combating illegal trade and trafficking of wildlife species, including those that are endemic to other countries.

“We know that while some terrestrial animals like elephants do not exist in our country, their by-products and derivatives find their way here, which makes it imperative for us to join the fight against wildlife trafficking and illegal trade,” he pointed out.

In the same press conference, CMS Executive Director Bradnee Chambers underscored the importance of international cooperation, especially among CMS party-nations, to ensure the survival of migratory species.

“By their very nature, migratory species— be it avian, terrestrial, and aquatic—need international efforts to ensure their survival. They face threats that can be best addressed through international cooperation,” Chambers said.

For her part, Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau expressed hope the country’s hosting of the CMS meeting will help encourage other government agencies to support the DENR in estimating the value of the country’s wildlife resources, as well as the economic losses caused by wildlife trafficking and illegal trade.

“It’s about time that we account the services that the wildlife gives to the Filipino people, not just its value when it is sold or eaten,” Lim said.

“The value should be based on the sustainability of the businesses and other development activities in the country,” she added.

CMS is the only global intergovernmental treaty established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. # 

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