MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and its neighboring countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands have signed an agreement securing the region's Coral Triangle, where a bulk of known coral and reef fish species are found.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje signed the agreement establishing a permanent secretariat for the Coral Trial Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) seated in Manado, Indonesia.
"This agreement clearly reflects the unique role of CTI-CFF in protecting and sustaining the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity as a fully operational secretariat," Paje said upon signing the partnership document in Quezon City on Monday.
The multilateral project, which is expected to be fully operational by May, is tasked to administer one of the most biologically diverse and ecologically rich regions in the world.
The Coral Triangle is home to 600 corals or 76 percent of the world's coral species.
About 37 percent of the planet's reef fish species are also concentrated in the regional waters.
Paje explained that the secretariat has a "central role" in enacting adaptation measures especially for coastal communities to improve their resilience to climate change.
The regional secretariat will be housed in a 6,000-square meter compound in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, which is currently being constructed.