Considering the rich biodiversity of the more than 7,000 islands comprising the archipelago and the country’s ideal geographic location, it should be no surprise why migratory species flock to our territories.
Our coastal areas and wetlands are natural magnets for birds and fish escaping the biting cold of the Siberian winds that signal winter across North Asia.
The seasonal visit of these birds and fish species only further enrich both the terrestrial and marine biodiversity.
That is the ecological benefit.
The economic benefit comes in the form of more revenues from eco-tourism and related activities.
Needless to say, the country needs to maximize returns from these while ensuring their sustainability.
And so we share the sentiments of Sen. Cynthia Villar in congratulating the organizers for the successful hosting of the 12th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in Manila which saw the biggest number of participants of over 1,000 from 126 countries and the biggest number of proposals accepted.
Villar also welcomed the agreements forged among world governments during the week-long conference, including actions to reduce marine debris such as plastics, microplastics and fishing gears. As chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the lady lawmaker was among the speakers on the first day of the conference.
"It is only fitting that the reduction of marine debris was among the topics highlighted by CMS-COP12 while the summit was being held in Manila, given a University of Georgia study ranking the Philippines as the third largest producer of plastic wastes that could potentially enter the seas and oceans," Villar said.
Among 192 countries surveyed, the study also shows China and Indonesia as top plastic waste producers.
Upon the invitation of the European Union, Villar was among the speakers in the panel discussion "Towards a Plastic-free Ocean- What role for policymakers, civil society and business?" in Singapore, where she stressed the extreme danger marine plastic wastes pose to the Philippines' marine natural resources.
"It is already among the common cause of the disease and death of animals. There have been increasing reports and incidents whale sharks, turtles and other animals that get entangled in or ingest plastic wastes. Eventually, that will threaten the entire ecosystem. Moreover, livelihoods and food sources are adversely affected," Villar said.
She also shared her legislative effort to amend the 17-year-old Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 to make manufacturers more accountable.
"A few months ago, during a Senate hearing, we asked private companies to get more involved in solving the worsening plastic wastes problem in our country. After all, they are the biggest producers of consumer items that utilize plastics. In fact, in our coastal cleanups, we collect truckloads of non-biodegradable wastes, mostly plastic wrappers, containers or sachets of shampoo, soaps and other personal care and food products," Villar said.
"We would like to pattern the amendment in our law after the so-called Extended Producer Responsibility concept practice by European countries that mandates manufacturers to recover plastic wastes through buy-back or recycling program. There should be a shared responsibility among us when it comes to waste management," she added.
CMS-COP12 also accorded greater protection for the endangered whale shark or butanding along with 34 other species. It also identified the Philippine government as one of the five new Migratory Species Champion for its effort to protect the whale shark.