ENVIRONMENT Secretary Ramon Paje on Sunday called for greater cooperation among the 21 member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to unlock the full potential of the so-called “blue economy” and achieve inclusive growth in the region.
“We envision a regional cooperation to narrow the gap in economic development of our economies while sustaining growth with equity,” Paje said in his opening remarks during the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Blue Economy at the Iloilo International Convention Center in Iloilo City.
The forum, scheduled from October 4 to 5, is co-hosted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture.
Paje underscored the need to narrow the economic gap among APEC nations, noting that the region currently “comprise economies at varying levels in the development spectrum.”
“There is a need for us to cooperate and address this wide economic gap,” the environment chief pointed out.
Paje said the two-day forum provides an opportunity to discuss concrete and feasible actions to advance sustainable management and conservation of the region’s coastal and marine ecosystems and habitats, and improved biodiversity to support higher fisheries productivity and provide better ecological services.
Harnessing blue economy
He explained that harnessing the blue economy is most important in the Asia Pacific, considering that the region’s marine resources account for two-thirds of the world’s capture fishery production and 80 percent of the world’s aquaculture production, making them vital in achieving food security.
He said an important way of sustaining and even improving the productivity of the oceans is “improving the biodiversity of coastal and marine ecosystems” as healthy ecosystems “support higher fisheries production and provides better ecological services such as their important contribution to regulate climate and to disaster risk reduction.”
“If we have healthy marine and coastal ecosystems, we can develop our brand of ‘blue economy’ defined as an approach to advance sustainable management and conservation of ocean and coastal resources and ecosystems and sustainable development, in order to foster economic growth,” Paje stressed.
The APEC dialogue aims to produce a plan of action that would keep the coastal and marine ecosystems’ resiliency and ensure sustainable food supply chains.
The action plan tackles three priority areas: resilient oceans and coastal resources; fish loss production; and agri-business development.
“The plan of action has undergone several revisions from the important and valuable comments and suggestions from different member economies,” Paje said.
“I express hope and confidence that the proposed Plan of Action of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Blue Economy will be adopted at the end of this meeting,” he added.
Meanwhile, on the culmination of the two-day APEC Partnership on Food Security (APEC-PPFS) meeting, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that the APEC member-economies agreed on food security policy statements for consideration during the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in November.
The policy declarations focused on four priority areas: Stock-take and Food Security Road Map Toward 2020, Sustainable Development of Agriculture and Fishery Sector, Facilitation on Investment and Infrastructure Development and, and Enhancing Trade and Market.
The delegates also finalized their food security projects and activities for this year.
“Food security has come to be one of the most urgent and important challenges confronting the world, especially us APEC economies,” said Undersecretary for Fisheries Asis G. Perez, who is also presiding PPFS chair.
Perez, however, noted that food security goes beyond increased food production. He said it involves enhancing the competitiveness of the economies’ agriculture and fisheries and fair policies that promote sustainability and growth among the many stakeholders, particularly smallholders such as women, farmers and fishermen.
Among the key issues discussed during the meeting was the reinforcement of private sector participation, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which is included in the PPFS 2015 Work Plan.