From commitment to action
I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea.
And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean.
And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”
Former US President John F. Kennedy’s words find extra resonance to us, as Cebuanos and Filipinos. Belonging to an archipelagic nation and a mega-diverse country at that, our ties to the ocean cover the whole gamut of our existence – as it has been, for centuries, and always will be. It is our way of life. For millions of coastal residents, it is the only one they know, now subjected to severe and relentless human pressures.
Last week was like a global ocean festival as the focus was centered on our ocean, the vast challenges it faces and the local, national and global responses to resurrect its vibrancy and health. We observed the global celebrations of World Oceans Day on June 8 in various ways in different parts of the world.
We thank the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cebu led by its Presiding Officer, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale and the members of the august body, including the Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, Thadeo Jovito Ouano, for giving us the timely opportunity to present our proposal to localize the Fisheries Code as amended by RA 10654, with its strong features to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, such as vessel monitoring measures. Our colleagues, Rose-Liza Osorio and Rosa Antes of Rare, also presented the state of Tañon Strait, its general management plan and initiatives for a sustainable management of the protected area.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Governor Hilario Davide III in the gallery, a rare gem of a public servant who remains the epitome of humility and simplicity.
We look forward to a stronger collaboration and partnership with our local government units to ensure the protection of our people’s rights to life, livelihood, and healthful and balanced ecology, and the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal No. 14, which is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
With the exacerbation of the impacts of climate change to our already threatened natural life support systems and the dire effects these have on our people especially our fisherfolk, farmers, children, women, elderly and other vulnerable sectors, we need to reach out and help each other in erasing the pervasive ignorance and lack of awareness, appreciation and understanding of the interconnectivity of life sources to each other and to us. We are nothing without these life support systems, and we have to accept that.
As part of the efforts to bring our oceans closer to the people, many of whom have not experienced the beauty of life under the water, award-winning photographers Danny Ocampo (also Oceana’s campaign manager) and Anna Varona are holding a photo exhibit entitled “RULE OF 2/3s” featuring our marine protected areas, like the Apo Island in Negros Oriental, Cagayancillo and Tubbataha in Palawan, and Tañon Strait in Negros and Cebu provinces.
Several weeks ago, Cebu City hosted the Philippines Oceans Conference, with the multi-sectoral participants pledging commitments and action to save our oceans.
These were among the record-breaking 1,300 pledges, forwarded to the United Nations in time for the United Nations Ocean Conference held in New York from June 5-9, with the theme “Our oceans, our future: partnering for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14.”
On the last day of the Oceans Conference, the United Nations released this report:
“The 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously agreed to a set of measures that will begin the reversal of the decline of the ocean’s health as the five-day Ocean Conference concluded this afternoon. The outcome document, together with more than 1,300 commitments to action, marks a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.
The Ocean Conference, the first UN conference of its kind on the issue has raised global consciousness of ocean problems ranging from marine pollution to illegal and over fishing, from ocean acidification to lack of high seas governance. By including all stakeholders in the discussions, the Conference produced a comprehensive and actionable range of solutions.”
The Bloomberg Philanthropies likewise unveiled the documentary on Tañon Strait, where stakeholders in the national and local government, non-government organizations and peoples organizations are now working together to restore ecological integrity in the protected area and improve the quality of life of the poorest of the poor, our fisherfolk.
It is noteworthy that the Empire State Building was lighted in blue in honor of the United Nations, Oceana Inc., and World Oceans Day. May it represent the collective symbolic action for this life-embracing journey we must take on to save our oceans and feed the world.
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