The National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines (NAST PHL) through its Biological Sciences Division (BSD) organized the Science and Technology (S&T) Policy Forum on Research Findings on the Effects of Climate Change on the Philippine Marine Resources on April 5, 2016 at the Hotel Jen Manila. The policy forum was conducted to (1) review and synthesize the recorded impacts of climate change on the Philippine marine resources and (2) make recommendations relating to their sustainable utilization and management.
National Scientist Mercedes B. Concepcion welcomed the participants from different government agencies, research institutions, and other organizations specializing on marine science and climate change. Academician (Acd.) Rhodora V. Azanza, chair of BSD and focal person of the forum, gave the opening remarks and the objectives of the policy forum.
The first speaker was Dr. Vincent V. Hilomen, project manager of the Marine Key Biodiversity Areas Project of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. His talk focused on the Philippine Fisheries and Biodiversity: the status of fisheries and biodiversity, potential effects of climate change, and the role of BMB in the protection of coastal and marine ecosystems. He pointed out that the increasing catch per unit effort (CPUE) on marine resources is due to seaweed culture. Thus, the current trend is in fact alarming considering that the commercial and municipal (fish/fishery) catches are actually declining. According to him, certain climate change impacts such as coral bleaching can shift species composition that would cause cascading changes in our biodiversity. With this, the BMB proposed a Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Rehabilitation Program to arrest the decline of ecosystems and increasethe total potential economic value of resource.
Dr. Laura T. David, NAST Outstanding Young Scientist 2007 and professor at the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP-MSI), discussed the Climate Change Impacts on the Philippine Marine Environment. Studies have shown the rise in ocean temperature. Such thermal anomalies intensify coral bleaching and global migration of fishes. However, Dr. David clarified that only several decades-worth of records can help determine the actual impacts of climate change in marine biodiversity. She also shared the implications of some mangrove rehabilitation practices in the Philippines. Lack of appropriate knowledge such as use of right species to be planted, interactions among the organisms, among others could even lead to potential damages of the environment.
Coastal/Marine Resources of the Philippines and Evaluation of Climate Change Impacts was discussed by Dr. Wilfredo Roehl Y. Licuanan, professor, College of Science, De La Salle University. He defined corals as animals with plants living inside their bodies composed of small polyps, while coral reefs are large areas with structure built by corals. He described a typical coastal ecosystem in the Philippines which includes the mangroves, sea grasses, sea weeds and corals. These parts are interdependent, thus should be intact to be able to protect coastal communities. Their study has estimated that the reef in Pangasinan could be gone in 11 years with 15% of its damage to be due to climate change, and 85% to human activities. Therefore, he recommended that in order to properly manage the ecosystem, people need to know what the components of the ecosystem are, how they are doing, and what affects their health. Further, people need to coordinate their actions to prevent further damages to the ecosystem. He also showed a video of the Philippine reef from the National Assessment of Coral Reef Environment (NACRE). He concluded that these pieces of information can be used as basis for policy formulation.
A number of concerns were raised by the participants during the open forum. As pointed out by the Chairman of BSD and the speakers, the Philippine territory is “more water than land” i.e. more than 60% (especially with the recent grant of the UN) of Benham Rise at the Country’s Pacific side). Therefore, more research and management measures should be undertaken for the country’s marine resources. Issues regarding closed season fishing, changes in the species compositions of the harvest, and the productivity capacities of the marine resources were discussed among others. Many agreed that human negative impacts in the marine environment are exacerbated by climate change.
The synthesis of the forum was given by Dr. Aletta T. Yñiguez, assistant professor at UP-MSI. She reiterated that the diverse marine resources of the country provide a lot of ecosystem services and the decline in the marine ecosystem and current state of the marine resources. In addition to human activities, climate change brought about by Philippine exposure to warming seas, rising sea levels, “souring” seas or ocean acidification, and extreme weather has damaged marine resoures. She further summarized the recommendations of the previous speakers by emphasizing that ecosystem could recover by itself if “left alone” or if it is not over exploited or if it is given “breathing space”. She ended her synthesis by saying that we should think globally and act locally on the climate change issues.
National Scientist Gavino C. Trono, Jr., a member of BSD of NAST PHL, gave the closing remarks. He emphasized that climate change is here and that there is a need to adapt to it by implementing appropriate programs. He also noted that although climate change has a very big effect on the biodiversity and productivity of marine resources, we have to allow these ecosystems to recover by themselves when they are damaged by weather disturbances.