MANILA -- Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called for strengthening of regional cooperation to protect the Coral Triangle and its marine resources from the devastating effects of climate change.

Cimatu made the call during the 7th Ministerial Meeting of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CIT-CFF) in Makati City on Friday.

According to the environment chief, regional cooperation has never been more important in the context of the immense challenges the Philippines and five other nations face from climate change, which is the single greatest threat to the coral-rich region.

“This is the value of the Coral Triangle Initiative. I see this partnership as a long-term solution not only for our region, but also for all of civilization mainly because of the fact that we are protecting the nursery and the center of the center of marine biodiversity,” he said.

The CTI-CFF is a multilateral partnership of six countries working together to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources by addressing crucial issues, such as food security, climate change and marine biodiversity.

Aside from the Philippines, the Coral Triangle is also composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

Cimatu said progress has been made in the last decade but CTI-CFF nations must not become complacent, especially in the face of climate change.

“We have made progress indeed ,but we are far from celebrating what is supposed to be a victory for our people—the sustainability of our coastal and marine resources,” Cimatu said.

“A lot has yet to be done and we want nothing less for the future generation than for them to experience what we have enjoyed so far from our oceans,” he added.

Cimatu rallied member-nations to continue supporting CTI-CFF’s “cause of empowering communities and providing them with options that will address their needs amidst the emerging impacts of climate change.”

“Rest assured, our governments will be working hand in hand to get things done,” he stressed.

Although highly diverse and rich because of abundance of coral reefs, tropical fishes, mangroves and seagrass, Cimatu said the Coral Triangle will be one of the very first regions that will feel the impact of climate change.

Cimatu noted that in the past 10 years, the region experienced unprecedented rates of droughts, extreme rainfall and weather, coral bleaching, and ocean acidification due to changing climate.

He lamented that climate change had hampered “not only the individual lives of the families living along the coastlines, but also of the economy of our entire nations. (DENR-PR)