Australia and the Philippines – working together to protect oceans and reefs
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - December 18, 2014 - 12:00am

As island states, Australia and the Philippines understand better than most the value of our oceans. The Pacific Ocean connects us and its health and the services it provides are crucial to both our countries. Our shared ocean sustains fish stocks and other marine life and provides livelihoods for many communities.  Healthy oceans and coastal areas are also crucial for tourism — a major source of income for us both.

With around 26,000 square kilometres of coral reef, the Philippines has much invested in good ocean management, including because so many people depend on coral reefs and their ecosystems for food and livelihoods. Coral reefs and mangroves also help protect coastal communities from the impacts of natural disasters, such as typhoons, and provide a natural filter to remove unwanted materials. .

Like the Philippines, Australia is committed to ensuring its oceans and reefs are protected and used sustainably. We do not want these great resources to be degraded and we cannot be complacent in our management. Unsustainable fishing practices, land-based sources of marine pollution, development and climate change all pose challenges to reefs and we, like the Philippines, are committed to tackling these threats responsibly.  In Australia, we’re proud to be recognised as a world leader in the sustainable use of the marine environment and we recognise the great work that is also being done here in the Philippines.

We are tackling climate change through national direct action and international engagement.  Consistent with our commitment to play our part in the global response to climate change, we have just pledged $200 million (more than P7.3 billion) over four years to the Green Climate Fund.

We are working together through the Coral Triangle Initiative (the CTI), an initiative focused on the global epicentre of marine biodiversity. While it spans only 1.6 percent of the planet’s oceans, the Coral Triangle encompasses over half of the world’s coral reefs and over three quarters of all known coral species, and provides spawning and juvenile growth areas for tuna and other globally-significant commercial fish species.

Australia has invested more than $7 million (more than P256 million) in support to the CTI since 2009. At the World Parks Congress in Sydney last month (a once in a decade event where thousands from around the globe come together to discuss best practices for park management) I, along with Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, announced Australia would contribute a further $6 million (more than P220 million) to the CTI over the next two years. 

With this new funding, Australia intends to support the key areas of eco-tourism development, expansion of the seascapes approach to integrated management, and a community-based small grants system to connect local people with opportunities for improved management of their natural resources and start-up funding for sustainable enterprises.

Closer to home, Australia has a passionate commitment to our most precious marine resource, and World Heritage Area, the Great Barrier Reef.

Australia is proud of the reef and we recognise more than anyone the value of this national and global icon. We are committed to protecting and managing this natural wonder for current and future generations.

We have a long history of achievements in managing the reef and are by no means complacent. We have a comprehensive plan to protect the reef and are making progress. There are no quick fixes to maintaining a healthy reef, but over many years we have been successful in identifying threats and finding solutions for the things we can control.

Through our world-leading reef management we are protecting this great natural asset, while enabling development that is sustainable and environmentally sensitive, and which contributes to economic prosperity for Australians.

We are seeing results. Water quality in the Great Barrier Reef is improving as a result of a partnership between farmers and governments to stop run-off from farming land. We are culling coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish and are investigating new ways to control them. We have better and stricter management regimes controlling shipping and industrial development in the area, including ports, and one third of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is in ‘highly protected’ zones where no development of any kind is allowed. 

Ours is the first government to have taken action to ban the dumping of capital dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Just as is the case with the Coral Triangle, protecting the reef involves everyone: governments, industry and the community working together. We are committed to our management and protection role in the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Triangle. And we look forward to working with the Philippines on our common goals.



  Greg Hunt

Australian Minister for the Environment


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