MANILA -- Six countries are preparing to map the next regional plan of action (RPOA 2.0) to undertake in further protecting the 6.0 million-square kilometer Coral Triangle, the roughly triangular-shaped marine area at the junction of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans, cited by experts as center of marine biodiversity on Earth.

Authorities from Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands and the Philippines - the countries within Coral Triangle - met on Monday (Dec. 10) to discuss terms of reference these will use as basis in coming up with respective recommendations for RPOA 2.0, said integrated coastal and marine partnerships section chief Nilda Baling from the Philippines' Biodiversity Management Bureau which spearheaded talks on the matter.

"RPOA 1.0 is ending in 2020 so we're already looking into how to move towards RPOA 2.0," she said on the side of the meeting in Makati City.

There's no deadline yet for work on RPOA 2.0, she said.
It's best for such work to conclude by next year in anticipation of RPOA 1.0's ending, however, Baling said.

Discussions on RPOA 2.0 were among the activities for the 14th Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) senior officials' meeting and 7th ministerial meeting in Makati City this week.

Comprising CTI-CFF are the countries within Coral Triangle.

Formed in 2009, CTI-CFF is such countries' multilateral partnership on protecting marine and coastal resources of Coral Triangle by addressing food security concerns, climate change, marine biodiversity threats and other issues hounding this area.

Coral Triangle lies along the equator at the confluence of Western Pacific and Indian oceans, said CTI-CFF, which described Coral Triangle's coral reef ecosystems as among the world's most threatened.

"Approximately 95 percent are at risk - over-fishing has affected almost every reef in the region, destructive fishing practices are common, land-based pollution is significant and coastal development is a growing threat," CTI-CFF said.

Future threats from climate change and ocean acidification will worsen such problems, it continued.

According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Coral Triangle hosts about 76 percent of Earth’s coral species, six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and at least 2,228 reef fish species.

"Resources from the area directly sustain more than 120 million people living here," WWF also said.

Over-fishing, destructive fishing, unsustainable tourism, impacts of urbanization and climate change are fast eroding Coral Triangle's resource base, however, it warned.

Baling said the CTI-CFF senior officials' meeting last year emphasized need for crafting RPOA 2.0.
Discussing RPOA 2.0's substance is important, so this plan can reflect best practices and identify priority action for Coral Triangle, she noted. "It's a pro-active measure as RPOA 1.0's end is getting near," she said.

Last year, Philippine Environment chief Roy Cimatu described the 13th CTI-CFF senior officials' meeting in Makati City then as a chance for this partnership to assess status of the 2010-2020 RPOA 1.0's implementation.

In 2009, CTI-CFF member-countries agreed to adopt the 10-year RPOA for Coral Triangle to protect marine and coastal biological resources in this area.

"The RPOA has five goals: strengthening management of seascapes, promoting an ecosystem approach to fisheries, establishing and improving effective management of marine protected areas, improving coastal community resilience to climate change and protecting threatened species," CTI-CFF said earlier.

CTI-CFF noted its member-countries also agreed to apply people-centered biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, poverty reduction and equitable benefit-sharing.

Such members sought to reduce poverty through economic development, food security, sustainable livelihood for coastal communities and biodiversity conservation through protecting species, habitats and ecosystems, CTI-CFF added. (PNA)