UN Philippines chief warns vs deteriorating oceans, calls for action to achieve Global Goals
27 July 2022
Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez calls for greater ambition at all levels to address the dire state of the ocean and renewed commitment to take urgent action
The message of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, Gustavo Gonzalez, at "Our Planet, Our Seas: A Deep Dive toward Sustainable Development Goals," organized by UP CIFAL Philippines on 27 July 2022 follows:
Good afternoon dear partners, colleagues and friends,
Allow me to acknowledge the presence of the Philippines Representative to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Mr. Efren Carandang.
The representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Assistant Secretary, Ms. Maria Angela Ponce.
The Director of University of the Philippines - CIFAL Philippines, Ms. Edna Co
Our distinguished speakers and experts from the University of the Philippines
My colleagues from the United Nations Country Team;
Partners from the academe, government, civil society, the private sector
First of all, I would like to congratulate the Philippines for having been elected to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, last June 2022.
This is a historic milestone to be celebrated as it is the first time that the country will serve in the Commission since the establishment of the Body, in 1997.
And we are honored to have with us -today- Mr Efren Carandang, the Philippines Representative. He will share his vision over the next five years.
I also congratulate the organizers of this Forum as the debate comes at the very right moment.
On one side, we have a new administration in the country, which creates political momentum for this debate on Planet, Seas and People; and, on the other side, we are facing an important number of interrelated crises at global level, which require, more than ever, alliances and coalitions.
I think it was very strategic from the organizers to link the “protection” and “sustainability” of our planet and our seas with the implementation of the “Sustainable Development Goals Agenda”.
Allow me to share with you three thoughts: One is on the need for urgent collective action in attaining the SDGs; Two is on the close relationship between “Planet”, “Prosperity”, and “Peace”; and Third, on the strategic partnership between the UN and the Philippines to promote life under water (or SDG 14).
Number One: we need to act with urgency. We have just eight years to catch up and accelerate the pace towards the 2030 goals. And as you know, we are out of track on almost all the SDGs, not just in the Philippines but in the region.
In the words of the UN Secretary General, reflected in his last Report on the SDGs, released just last 8th of July, he said “we need an urgent rescue effort for the SDGs.”
The UN ESCAP 2022 SDG Progress Report for the Asia and the Pacific put it in simpler terms: “The region is not on track to achieve any of the SDGs.”
At the current pace of progress, the Asia Pacific region will only attain the SDGs in 2065.
This sense of urgency -calling for strong and unprecedented political will- is also valid for our “ocean actions”, as the health of our ocean continues to deteriorate.
The draft political declaration from this year’s UN Ocean Conference held in Lisbon just over three weeks ago called for “greater ambition at all levels to address the dire state of the ocean”.
Number Two, we must recognize and address the direct linkages between the Philippines’ maritime concerns and their impact on the social, economic, and environmental challenges faced today by the country.
As we know, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea -which is the main focus of the work of the of UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf-, embraces these three pillars of sustainable development. This broader context of “ocean governance” contributes to the country’s efforts to, for instance: “ensure food security and address poverty”: the UN – through the Food and Agriculture Organization – supports the implementation of the “Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication” which outline a global consensus on principles for small-scale fisheries governance and development.
The UN is presently working with Local Government Units to ensure that small-scale fishers are provided with appropriate support and have access to basic services and programs that will improve their living conditions.
The guidelines also emphasize the granting of preferential rights to small-scale fishers to fish in waters under national jurisdiction. It means that small-scale fisheries should be given due consideration before country agreements on resource access are entered into with other countries.
In terms of protection of the environment, the UN – through the United Nations Environment Programme – supports the “Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA)” on the implementation of the “Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter”
The nine COBSEA countries, which include the Philippines, are committed to prevent and reduce marine litter from land-based and sea-based sources, including the analysis of plastic material flows, and catalyze actions to support implementation of the regional plan.
Number Three, while the country’s journey towards several SDGs was seriously affected by the pandemic and other shocks, we have to also highlight important progress on SDG 14.
Based on the Philippines’ 2022 Voluntary National Review that was just presented at the High Level Political Forum in New York, two weeks ago, there was good progress on the coverage of protected areas, which increased to 3.14 million hectares in 2020, more than double the baseline area of 1.41 million in 2016.
The VNR also reported that the presidential proclamation in 2018, declaring a portion of the Philippines Rise as a “Marine Resource Reserve” contributed to the increase in the coverage of the country’s marine protected areas.
For our part, the UN will continue to support the country across the three pillars of People, Prosperity and Planet, and Peace, as outlined in the UN Socioeconomic and Peacebuilding Framework for COVID-19 Recovery in the Philippines 2020-2023.
And we will be engaging in a new cooperation framework very shortly, with the new administration. It will be interesting to see how the new Philippines Development Plan will incorporate marine-related priorities.
The preparation of these plans will be another opportunity to engage with of all you, to pool all our capacities, knowledge and resources to support the Philippines in this challenging journey towards the SDGs, including for SDG 14.
In closing, I would like to thank our partner UP-CIFAL, which is part of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), for its great leadership in knowledge sharing and SDGs advocacy.
I am persuaded that the insights generated today will contribute to improving our future plans for addressing the significant sustainable development challenges involving our seas and oceans.