GENEVA - Charge d'Affaires Maria Teresa Almojuela, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Philippine Mission to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva, stressed the role of wetlands in reducing disaster risk during a panel discussion held on February 02 in commemoration of World Wetlands Day.

"The Philippine experience with Typhoon Haiyan underlined the importance of wetlands as buffers, and managing them correctly is key to disaster risk resilience," she said, recalling the experience of the town of Palompon in Leyte, whose mangrove plantation protected it from deadly storm surges brought by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

She highlighted Philippine measures aimed at maximizing the role of wetlands in mitigating the impact of disasters and ensuring an ecosystem-based approach in managing and reducing disaster risk.

The panel discussion called "Healthy Wetlands, Resilient Communities" aimed to raise awareness about how wetlands act as barriers against flooding and erosion. According to the discussion, wetlands are buffers that shield communities from the full impact of extreme weather events on top of their regular functions of enriching biodiversity and providing a source of livelihood for local communities.

Various institutions such as the UN Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance sponsored the discussion.

The Philippines authored a resolution on "Wetlands and Disaster Risk Reduction" during the Conference of Parties to the Ramsar Convention in Uruguay in June 2015. The resolution encouraged member-states to integrate ecosystem management plans into disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies.

It also aimed to increase the knowledge base on wetlands while recognizing the roles and potential contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities in wetlands management.

Martha Rojas, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention, noted how the international community can use wetlands in addressing climate change. She explained that wetlands are natural carbon sinks and that their use and management in the Nationally Determined Contributions of individual countries could help in the achievement of the global target of reducing carbon emissions.

Charge d'Affaires Almojuela shared the experiences of the Philippines in pursuing an ecosystem-based approach to disaster risk reduction. For instance, the Philippines had carried out a mapping of its wetlands and emphasized cooperation among different government agencies and other sectors. The Philippines had also recently completed a Sunset Review of relevant laws and regulations in order to refine and improve the national framework on disaster risk reduction and management.

The Philippines has designated protected areas, including marine protected areas, to help preserve the environment. The National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 has led to the designation of 240 protected areas or around 12% of the country's total land area. It is also a member of the Coral Triangle Initiative, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste and which accounts for 76% of the world's known coral species.

The Philippines itself has six designated Ramsar Sites. These are the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, the Naujan Lake National Park, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Las PiAas-ParaAaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually to raise awareness about wetlands. It is held every 2nd of February, which coincides with the date of the adoption of the Ramsar Convention in Iran in 1971. END

Source: Republic of Philippines Department Of Foreign Affairs