The risk to marine biodiversity posed by invasive aquatic species needs to be addressed globally. The growing focus on the Blue Economy makes this even more important, as invasive species can have negative impacts on a wide range of resources and economic sectors. In the Philippines, a study published in 2017 estimated that the coastal and marine environment contributed over 6 billion dollars to the national economy every year.
Aiming to raise awareness on the negative effects of invasive species to the marine environment, the Philippines, through its Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), held a National Workshop in Manila, on 12 to 13 September 2019. The two-day meeting brought together representatives from numerous government agencies, ports and academia that are expected to take part in a National Task Force that will develop a policy to improve biofouling management and prevent the transfer of marine invasive species.
The Administrator of MARINA, Vice-Admiral Narciso A. Vingson Jr, inaugurated the workshop and expressed the commitment of the Philippines to protect the marine environment and to finding sustainable solutions that may be replicated throughout the region.
Participants were offered an overview of the national biofouling regulations that are expected to enter into force in 2020 in Australia. The Australian Department of Agriculture, represented by Ms. Sonia Gorgula, Assistant Director of Marine Biosecurity, explained the approach and experience of her Department during the development of their national policy.
The representative from the GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Project Coordination Unit introduced participants to the key elements for the development of a national policy, and the capacity building activities that will be available at the national level to support the implementation of the policy in the Philippines. Chaired by Ms. Jean Ver Pia, Director of OSS, MARINA, participants analyzed the current status of affairs in the Philippines and reviewed the institutional framework at the national level, particularly discussing how to improve integration of academic research into the work of the future national task force.
Among the numerous delegates, the workshop included participation of the Ms. Aimee Gonzales, Executive Director of the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), and Ms. Josephine Uranza, IMO Regional Coordinator for East Asia. Other noteworthy interventions were from Mr. J. Alcantara, from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Professor Benjamin Vallejo, from the University of the Philippines, who highlighted some examples of recent invasions in the Bay of Manila.
The next step in the Philippines will be the development of national baseline reports to assess the current situation with regard to non-indigenous species, and identify any research currently available on the subject and analyse the economic impacts and current legal framework. MARINA will be the Lead Agency for the GloFouling Partnerships Project in the Philippines, and has been commissioned to create the National Task Force (NTF) and the development of the necessary country-level information, education and activities for the effective implementation of a national policy on biofouling management and invasive species.