(UPDATE) THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is committed to address marine pollution, among the fastest-growing threat to human health and economic development not just in the region but globally.
“Marine debris is in fact among the fastest-growing threats to human health and economic development. This growing threat is recognized globally,” Asean Deputy Secretary General Ekkaphab Phanthavong said on Tuesday in a video address to the 2022 East Asia summit on marine cooperation.
The three-day Manila workshop on maritime and scientific cooperation was geared toward creating healthy and sustainable oceans.
Phanthavong noted that the reduction of marine pollution is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal by 2025, including marine debris.
“The Asean is committed to strengthening collective action to address this pressing issue,” he said.
The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, has urged the international community and concerned experts to address marine pollution since it is an issue that “transcends boundaries and nationalities.”
“Picture this, by the year 2050 there will be more plastics than fishes in the sea. The oceans will be overheated and acidified and 90 percent of coral reefs will be wiped out of existence,” DFA Acting Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro said.
“There will be waves of mass marine life extinction, causing enormous disruption in the ecosystem of coastal cities such as Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Seoul, Tokyo. Non-coastal states will not be spared from this environmental tragedy,” she added.
“All of us gathered around in this forum would bear the same consequences of our wanton neglect of our maritime resources and ecosystems,” according to Lazaro, also DFA acting undersecretary for bilateral relations and Asean affairs.
“This is such a bleak illustration of a doomsday scenario if we do not do anything about the environment. This goes without saying that the dire state of our oceans is something that requires immediate action,” she said.
Aside from the 10-member Asean, the summit participants included Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
“We may be individually different from each other in terms of government, or culture or beliefs. But marine pollution is an issue that transcends boundaries and nationalities,” Lazaro said.
DFA Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu, Asean Philippines national secretariat director general, said the Philippines has a maritime economy and maritime culture.
“Maritime cooperation will therefore always be a key priority. It’s only natural for us to protect the oceans, which provide for the majority of our subsistence,” Espiritu also said.
Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga could not attend the summit, but she sent a message to the participants.
She said climate change plays a vital role in “accelerating the deterioration” of oceans, “which threatens our food and water security.”
Yulo-Loyzaga noted that the Philippines has passed the Producers Responsibility Act of 2022 which institutionalized producers’ responsibility for plastic packaging waste.
“I hope that this workshop can become a vehicle for all of us to discuss the realities of our maritime situation, explore avenues for cooperation and strengthen our commitment to protect and preserve our oceans,” Lazaro said.