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Wild Bird Club of the Philippines Participates in the CMS-COP12

Wild Bird Club of the Philippines Participates in the CMS-COP12
Text and photos by Karen Ochavo

On 23 to 28 October 2017, the Philippine Government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), hosted the Twelfth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS-COP12) at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila. The CMS-COP12 was attended by representatives from the 124 Parties or States who are signatories to the CMS, as well as representatives from Non-Party Range States and observers from various wildlife and environmental organizations. The CMS is a framework convention under the guidance of the United Nations Environment Programme which brings together the Range States through which migratory animals pass and lays the legal foundation for international conservation measures coordinated throughout a migratory range. The CMS provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats, and facilitates cooperation with other international organizations, NGOs, corporates, and media partners[1].

WBCP as observer to the CMS-COP12
WBCP members attend the CMS-COP12

WBCP Participation
Several members of WBCP attended the CMS-COP12 as observers to the main plenary and as volunteer guides for the birdwatching trips organized for the delegates. Observers were able to sit in the main plenary sessions where the Parties to the Convention covered a substantial agenda which included budgetary and administrative matters, presentation of national reports, discussions on conservation issues and strategies, and deliberations on proposals for listing of several species on the CMS Appendix I (Threatened Migratory Species) and Appendix II (Migratory Species Requiring International Cooperation)[2]. There were side events during the CMS-COP12 where experts from government agencies and international and local NGOs presented key research findings and best practices aligned with the Convention’s goals. WBCP president Willem van de Ven attended the High Level Panel Discussion on the evening of October 22nd, the highlight of which was how the knowledge gap on wildlife migration was closed after 30 years of work while stressing the need to improve the enforcement of policies and to further raise the general public’s awareness of the importance of biodiversity and migratory species.

Arne Jensen of Wetlands International and co-founder of WBCP presented at one of the side events on the topic “Status of Monitoring of Migratory Waterbirds of International Importance in the Philippines”. His presentation emphasized the importance of regular monitoring of migratory bird populations in the Philippines, particularly through the counts during the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC). Of the 14 countries that participate in the annual AWC, 12% of the highest total count or about 353,000 waterbirds are counted in the Philippines.

Arne Jensen presented at the side event on migratory waterbirds in the Philippines
Panelists at the side event on Single Species Action Plans

Another interesting set of presentations at one side event was about the “Single Species Action Plans (SSAP) for Migratory Waterbirds in the East Asia-Australasian Flyway (EAAF)”.Tomoko Ichikiwa of the EAAF Partnership gave an overview of how SSAP has been a key instrument in implementing coordinated measures to maintain if not improve the conservation status of migratory waterbird species. Some species covered by SSAP are the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (critically endangered but population decline is slowing), Black-faced Spoonbill (moved from critically endangered to endangered), and Chinese Crested Tern (population has stabilized).

Philippine Proposals Approved
Director Theresa Mundita Lim of DENR-BMB shared in an interview that the Philippines’ hosting of the CMS-COP12, the first in Asia and the Philippines being the only South East Asian member country to the Convention, raises the profile of the different migratory species that visit and pass through the country[3]. Through the CMS-COP12, five species including three birds proposed by the Philippines will have greater protection. Now included in the CMS Appendix I are the butanding or Whale Shark (Rhincondon typus) and the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi); while the Black Noddy (Anous minutus subspecies worcesteri), Yellow Bunting (Emberiza sulphurata), and White-spotted Wedgefish (Rhychobatus australiae) are included in Appendix II[4]. Appendix II species require international agreements for their conservation and management, while  Appendix I species require the conservation of their habitats, removal of obstacles from their migratory routes, and strict prohibition from capture on top of international cooperation.

Among the 11 resolutions drafted by the Philippines that were adopted at the CMS-COP12 was the “Manila Declaration on Sustainable Development and Migratory Species.” The Manila Declaration recognizes the role of migratory species in achieving the global sustainable development goals through socioeconomic benefits such as food, pollination, pest control, medicinal and genetic resources, and ecotourism. The Manila Declaration urges the Parties as well as the private sector and civil society to promote and improve coordination for the implementation of the Convention at the national level and to integrate wildlife considerations in their economic and social policies[5].

Site Visits
The Philippines’ hosting of the CMS-COP12, in a way, helped push for the much needed improvement of the visitors’ facilities at the Las Piñas – Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), considering its status as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention (LPPCHEA is the Philippines’ sixth Ramsar site declared in 2013). A covered briefing area called the ‘Wave Center’ and permanent restrooms were constructed in time for the delegates’ visits throughout the week of the CMS-COP12. The boardwalk passing through the mangroves in the Freedom Island (northern side of LLPCHEA) was also completed and made birding easier and safer in that part of the site.

WBCP president Willem van de Ven (leftmost) guided delegates at the LPPCHEA
Wave Center at the LPPCHEA

The CMS-COP12 delegates were also instrumental in influencing management changes at another popular wetland in the Philippines, the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park in Bataan. Experts from the delegation expressed their concern about the recently planted mangroves at some portions of the mudflats and stressed the importance of controlling mangrove planting activities along the coastal area. Mangroves and mudflats are distinct yet connected habitats that accommodate different sets of species; when natural mudflats are planted with mangroves, their root systems will irreversibly impact the structure and expanse of the mudflats and will change these coastal habitats—affecting the populations of different shorebirds that depend on mudflats for food when they are here during the migration season.  Dr. Taej Mundkur of Wetlands International (Netherlands) and Dr. S. Balachandran of Bombay Natural History Society (India) recommended that the recently planted mangroves be removed while their roots have not established yet, and the Balanga City staff assured that they will take action right away.

Delegates visited the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park
Delegates birded along the mangroves and mudflats at the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park

Their Future is Our Future
In keeping with the CMS-COP12’s theme “Their Future is Our Future”, the future of migratory species = our own future looks more promising. Big thanks to the tireless efforts of the stalwarts of conservation in the Philippine delegation led by DENR-BMB and the supportive delegations from other nations. And with enthusiastic volunteers from groups like WBCP, there is hope for the improvement of conservation practices and habitat management in the country that our visiting wildlife friends will enjoy.






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