PH bats for greater protection for migratory species in ecotourism sites

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the Philippines will push for major initiatives aimed at harnessing ecotourism as a tool for conservation of migratory species and their habitats when the country hosts next month the world’s largest wildlife conference this year.

“The Philippines, as an important host to a number of migratory species in its coastal, marine, wetland and forest ecosystems, will prove to the rest of the world that human development should not be at the cost of our natural resources and the ecosystem services that they provide,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu made the statement as he announced that the country has already submitted its draft “Resolution on Sustainable Tourism and Migratory Species” to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in time for the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, or more commonly abbreviated as Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), to be held in Manila from October 23 to 28.

“The resolution aims to bring forth how wildlife interaction in tourism affects migratory species and how tourism activities should be managed to ensure that these do not negatively impact the said species,” Cimatu said.

By hosting the CMS event, Cimatu said the Philippines will have the opportunity to share its experiences in terms of migratory species conservation for other countries to follow.

“Global resources are shared resources. As a global resource, the preservation of migratory species should be a collective responsibility of all nations,” Cimatu pointed out.

Migratory species that pass by the Philippines on different times of the year contribute as wildlife tourist attractions and have led to the rise in ecotourism.

These species include the whale shark or butanding that migrates to Legazpi City in Albay province, Donsol town in Sorsogon and Oslob town in Cebu; the sea cow or dugong that frequents the town of Busuanga in Palawan and Mati City in Davao Oriental; and marine turtle or pawikan that visits the provinces of Bataan, Palawan and Tawi-Tawi.

As part of the East Asian-Austrasian Migratory Flyway, the Philippines also hosts a number of migratory birds in protected areas like the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecosystem Area, Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro, and the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu.

Cimatu said the proposed resolution aims to regulate ecotourism areas frequented by migratory species and ensure that their natural migration patterns, habitats, population are not distorted or harmed.

“It is important for the Philippines and all countries that are parties to the CMS to maintain migratory sites as viable habitats so that these species will continue to come back,” Cimatu said.

He added: “We can do tourism using biodiversity, but we have to preserve it. There should be a balance between man and nature in pursuit of economic development.”

The environment chief expressed hope the CMS party states will adopt the resolution.

“The resolution comes at a time when migratory species are exposed to a growing number of threats, which have led to the decline in their population,” Cimatu said. “We are determined to ensure that ecotourism protects these species and their habitats at all costs.”

The CMS meeting will help participants grasp the importance and tools of the convention, which serves as a platform to strengthen transboundary conservation efforts for migratory animals worldwide.

The Philippines and other countries will have the opportunity to share information and experiences with other states sharing the same migratory species, also with a view to achieving biodiversity targets as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The event will mark the first time the CMS conference is held in Asia since the international treaty was adopted in Bonn, Germany in 1979 and came into force in 1985. ###