World’s largest wildlife conference ends on high note for host country Philippines

The 12th Meeting of Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS-COP12) ended on a high note for the host country, the Philippines, with the adoption of 11 resolutions it had drafted.

These include the five resolutions providing greater protection for the whale shark or butanding and four other migratory species frequenting the Philippines, and the resolution recognizing the role of migratory wildlife species in achieving global sustainable development goals, also known as the “Manila Declaration.”

Also adopted during the CMS-COP12, held at the Philippine International Convention Center from October 23 to 28, were the Philippine-drafted resolutions on the Designation of the Whale Shark for Concerted Actions; Sustainable Tourism and Migratory Species; Promoting Conservation of Critical Intertidal and other Coastal Habitats for Migratory Species; Promoting Marine Protected Area Networks in the ASEAN Region, and Establishing a COP Presidency.

Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) said the Philippine government, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), will work towards the effective implementation of the country’s commitments under the CMS and its newly approved resolutions.

“We will put in place the necessary national measures, and we will engage all sectors of society in crafting these measures,” Lim said.

These measures, she said, include public education, expansion of protected areas and creation of critical habitats, if necessary, to ensure protection of threatened migratory species.

Lim noted that the Philippines already has several laws that cover the adopted resolutions, including the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, the Fisheries Code, the National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS Act, and the Ecotourism Development Act.

In implementing all CMS-related activities, Lim said the DENR will consider inputs from various sectors of society including non-government organizations, civil society, local government units and indigenous peoples to ensure transparency, accountability and objectivity.

Meanwhile, Lim said the BMB will propose to DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to prioritize research on five migratory species that are subjects of the Philippine resolutions adopted during CMS-COP12.

“We have to generate baseline information where these species are found and the status of their population,” Lim said. “We also look forward that the Department will provide the necessary resources to implement the country’s commitments to the CMS.”

Aside from the butanding (Rhincondon typus), the CMS-COP provided greater protection to the Christmas Island frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi), black noddy (Anous minutus) subspecies worcesteri, yellow bunting (Emberiza sulphurata), and white-spotted wedgefish (Rhychobatus australiae).

Both the butanding and Christmas Island frigatebird will be listed on Appendix I of CMS, which covers migratory species that are considered endangered or with a high risk of extinction. The listing requires CMS party-states to protect these species by strictly prohibiting their capture, conserving and restoring their habitats, and removing obstacles to their migration.

The black noddy, yellow bunting and white-spotted wedgefish will be included in Appendix II, which requires international agreements to be drawn up for their conservation and management.

If the approval of 11 Philippine-drafted resolutions were an indication, Lim said the country’s hosting of the CMS-COP12 was a success.

“I believe that in terms of the CMS family, we can say that we have provided them with a different perspective of the Philippines,” Lim said.

She added: “We hope to receive international cooperation in terms of protection of the species. We can protect only those species within our territory. Beyond our territory, the other countries should also initiate measures to protect these species.”

Lim also said heightened conservation efforts are expected on our part particularly on the species we have named in the resolutions that were adopted by the CMS body.

“Additionally, with the recognition of the Philippines as a Champion for our whale shark conservation efforts, Secretary Cimatu has committed to implement measures to achieve the objectives of our concerted action plan.”

With the adoption of the resolution on COP presidency, the Philippines will remain as chair of the COP and extend its role as host country.

“We will continue our leadership role in all CMS activities, meetings and negotiations, intercessionally, between now and COP 13 in 2020,” Lim added.

The CMS-COP12 broke the CMS record in terms of attendance and participation with more than 1,000 delegates and observers from 94 countries.

The event marked the first time the CMS meeting was held in Asia. At least 31 proposals from 24 countries were debated in the conference aimed at strengthening global efforts to protect and conserve threatened migratory species and their habitats.

The CMS, adopted by 124 nations and is under the auspices of the UN Environment Program, is the only global environmental treaty established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.

The COP is its main decision-making body that meets every three years to adopt policies and laws, and propose new species under the framework. ###