Cebu News

Cebu leaves footprint ahead of Summit: Cebu Resolution inked at environment gab

- Wenna Berondo -
Cebu formally entered the statute books of Asean multilateral agreements for the first time yesterday when the environment ministers of all 10 members of the regional grouping signed a document called the Cebu Resolution on Sustainable Development.

The document, signed at the end of a two-day ministerial meeting at the Shangri-la Mactan Island Resort and coming a month ahead of the 12th Asean Summit in December, resolved to further enhance regional cooperation and strengthen efforts to enforce environmental laws.

" The ministers reviewed regional cooperation on a number of environmental activities and resolved to work towards an environmentally sustainable Asean community, " said Philippine Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes, reading a prepared joint statement of the ministers at a press conference.

Among the issues discussed by the ministers were pressing problems concerning transboundary haze pollution and biodiversity conservation.

The ministers of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, five countries that have been seriously affected by haze from the annual burning of forests in Indonesia to clear land for tilling have committed to set aside a so-called " Haze Fund " to address the problem and rehabilitate the affected countries.

Indonesia and Singapore pledged to contribute US$50,000 each for the fund while the rest said they still have to seek the approval of their heads of state.

Asean Deputy Scretary General Dr. Soeung Ratchavy said commitments to the Haze Fund should have the consent of heads of states.

Reyes, who said the haze has not affected the Philippines, quickly said there was no need for the country to set aside money for the fund.

On October 25, Singapore raised before a UN committee on sustainable development its concern over the haze pollution in Southeast Asia. Its charge d'affaires in New York demanded that the environmental, health, and economic damage brought about by the annual haze problem in the region be promptly addressed.

Indonesia's action plan to address the problem has been endorsed by Asean but a technical working group would still work on the details, including its terms of reference.

During the Environment Summit, Asean launched its Third State of the Environment Report 2006 whuch recognizes the enormous challenge the region faces toward achieving an environmentally sustainable Asean community.

One of these challenges is conserving the region's biological and genetic resources which include wildlife - plant and animal species - and microorganisms.

To promote biodiversity in Southeast Asia, the environment ministers pledged to support the Asean Center for Biodiversity recently established in the Philippines.

International marine scientists have regarded the Philippines as the center of marine biodiversity in the world because of its great species of marine and coastal resources. They also acknowledged the richness of the Verde Island Passage located between Batangas and Mindoro and declared the area as the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.

Citing a study entitled " Human footprint too big for nature, " Reyes said the Philippines has a biocapacity limit of 1.1 hectares per person, which means that at least 1.1 hectares of forest teeming with rich biodiversity is needed to produce useful biological materials to support every Filipino's need for food or medicine.

Earlier, President Arroyo signed an executive order establishing guidelines for government agencies to integrate the protection, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into their policies, plans and programs.

In Southeast Asia, the average biocapacity limit per per person is 1.8 hectares. It is 1.4 hectares in Thailand, 1.1 hectares in Indonesia, 0.9 hectates in Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam and 0.7 hectares in Cambodia.

Asean biodiversity, Reyes said, is crucial in achieving a better quality of life in the region.

The ministers also agreed tp expedite the signing of the Asean Framework Agreement on access to " fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of biological and genetic resources in order to sustainably manage the rich biological resources of the region.

They likewise endorsed the Asean Environmentally Sustainable Cities Award to recognize exemplary national efforts in member countries to promote efforts toward environmental sustainability in Asean cities.

In a meeting with their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea, the environment ministers of Asean also agreed to work with the ministers of the three countries on such areas as environmental education, environmentally-sound technology, climate change, biodiversity management, and intergrated water resource management.

Reyes said environmental problems in Asean cannot be confined within political boundaries hence the need for transboundary agreements. He said the Asean Plus Three can do a lot to solve environmental problems that affect the region because they comprise more than a third of the world's population and a tenth of the total land area of the world. - with AFP (/JST)

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