PH urges nations to conserve intertidal wetlands for migratory species

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Tuesday, October 24, made a pitch for the conservation of critical intertidal and other coastal habitats for migratory species at the sidelines of the world's largest wildlife conference for the year.

The CMS resolution calls on parties to significantly enhance their efforts to conserve and promote the sustainable use of intertidal wetlands and other coastal habitats of importance for migratory species worldwide.

Asked how the resolution will extend the conservation of wetlands in light of the Ramsar Convention, Theresa Mundita Lim of the Philippines' environment department said they see the CMS resolution as a "complementation" of the work of environmentalists in Ramsar.

"What we feel is that by bringing this up in CMS, we are actually looking already at the synergy of all these conventions, looking at intertidal flats not just as a unique ecosystem but also habitats for migratory species," said Lim, the director of the Philippines' Biodiversity Management Bureau.

She continued: "So if we want to protect our migratory species, it is important that we look at their habitats as well. So this resolution focuses on that aspect of intertidal flats in coastal areas."

Ratified in 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an international agreement binding at least 160 member-nations. It is focused on the protection and preservation of globally important wetland ecosystems.

The draft resolution recognizes that intertidal habitats in most parts of the world remain subject to extreme pressures because of land claims for development, pollution, and other unsustainable uses.

These pressures, Lim said, reduce the capacity of intertidal habitats to support migratory species. They also reduce the ability of intertidal habitats to temper the effects of climate change.

"But of course in relation to this convention, the impact is really more visible on the migratory species that serve the same purpose, that serves also the needs of the communities that are dependent on some of these migratory species, like migratory birds for ecotourism purposes and for other livelihoods," she explained.

ASEAN region

Lew Young from the Ramsar Convention Secretariat said one of the first steps in conserving these habitats is understanding the full range of services they provide, and then raising awareness about their importance.

For instance, Young shared that out of the 53 Ramsar sites in the ASEAN region, 32 have coastal components with different ecosystem services such as providing food, reducing hazards, and controlling erosions.

"We need to understand the full range of services so that when we develop management plans for these sites, we maintain all these services," he added.

The Philippines is the only ASEAN country that is party to the CMS. Philippine Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier said the country is ready to lead efforts to protect migratory wildlife species in the ASEAN region.

The CMS meeting will run until October 28 at the Philippine International Convention Center.

This is the first time the triennial conference is held in Asia since the international treaty was adopted in Bonn, Germany in 1979, and entered into force in 1985. –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.