Photos courtesy of Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation
The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Philippines are exploring possible areas for collaboration, including raising awareness on the issue of coastal and marine conservation in the Philippines, where marine plastic pollution is causing environmental damage and posing health risks.
At present, the Korean government’s development cooperation agency Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has launched a marine litter management program in the Philippines in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG). The multi-year assistance from 2021 to 2025 is focused on establishing a marine litter monitoring system, stationing a clean-up vessel near Manila Bay, and enhancing marine litter management capacity in the Philippines.
“Korea is glad to be contributing to the marine environmental protection in the Philippines, a country widely known for its beautiful coral reefs and aquatic biodiversity. Korea hopes that the marine litter management assistance will help mitigate risks posed by the increasing marine debris problem that many experts claim is undermining the marine landscape of the Philippine archipelago”, said Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines Inchul Kim.
A clean-up vessel, which will be donated by the Korean government under the KOICA project, is projected to arrive in the Philippines late next year tentatively upon completion of necessary procurement procedures. The clean-up vessel will be the first marine vessel dedicated to collect marine litter in the Philippines.
DENR notes that there is an evident presence of marine litters or plastics floating at the Manila Bay, exacerbated during the Habagat Season (Wet Season) or strong typhoons that are washed ashore. Meanwhile, as the World Bank Group recently published in March 2021, more than 75 percent of the material value of plastics, equivalent to USD 6 billion per year, is lost across three countries of Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand due to the absence of recycling. Under a partnership between the Korean government and the World Bank Group, the World Bank’s study on the Philippines was funded by the Korea Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTF) in efforts to support the mainstreaming of green growth through the World Bank’s lending operations.
“Korea will continue to take part in the global efforts to address environmental issues through various multilateral and bilateral cooperation, ranging from hosting the upcoming 2021 P4G Summit and collaborating with various UN agencies and international organizations to bilateral development cooperation with the Philippines on the protection of marine environment and biodiversity”, said Ambassador Kim.
Korea will be hosting the “Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals (P4G) 2030” Summit on 30-31 May 2021 in Korea, uniting heads of states, CEOs, investors, and civil society leaders. The Korean government has also been in close cooperation with various other international organizations to contribute to the preservation of the marine environment in the region.
ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said these possible partnerships with Korea on marine litter management would be aligned with the priorities of the ASEAN, under the ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment.
“The ASEAN Member States have pledged to reduce and prevent marine debris as part of their commitments under the Bangkok Declaration Combatting Marine Debris in the ASEAN Region. The region recognises that marine pollution is a trans-boundary issue that requires integrated regional cooperation”, Lim said.
She emphasized that pollution is one of the threats to marine biodiversity as thousands of animals are killed after ingesting or getting entangled in plastic products. The deterioration of ecosystems because of these wastes pose tangible and negative impacts on the people’s health and livelihoods.
Tackling the issue of marine debris is highly relevant today because of the growing concerns over the volumes of medical wastes generated by the COVID-19 pandemic response and the fear that some of these may end up in waterways and oceans.
In a study published by Science Direct in September 2020, the average number of face masks used in 49 Asian countries in a day as of 31 July 2020 was estimated at 2.2 billion.
“Innovative actions in properly disposing and managing wastes, including those generated by the pandemic response, will help reduce marine litter that affects the health of our marine ecosystems and the capacity of our oceans to provide fisheries and food security, as well as to effectively serve as one of our natural solutions to climate change impacts,” Lim added.
The ACB is set to conduct a study aimed at identifying entry points for regional action, such as support to cooperation for research and assessments, which may help in protecting and recovering marine biodiversity threatened by marine litter.
Lim likewise noted that Korea’s continued efforts and leadership in green growth might be synchronized with ACB’s efforts to mainstream biodiversity into various sectors, including infrastructure and energy.
Over more than a decade, Korea has been promoting policies focused on green growth, a development paradigm that creates a growth engine and job creation based on “green technology and clean energy.” Korea’s Green New Deal, announced last year, further elaborates on the areas of focus as the promotion of green transition of infrastructures, low-carbon, and decentralized energy, and innovation in the green industry.
“We hope more businesses through the help of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea will be our partners in our endeavor of integrating biodiversity considerations into plans and business models,” she said.