Philippines Participates in the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-Western Pacific (IOC-WESTPAC) Meetings

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is the UN System’s lead organization for marine science.  Established in 1960, IOC aims to promote international cooperation programmes in research, services and capacity-building, to further the understanding of the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas, and apply this understanding to improve the management and sustainability of the marine environment.  In addition, IOC is recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the competent international organization in the fields of Marine Scientific Research (Part XIII) and Transfer of Marine Technology (Part XIV).

IOC established regional subsidiary bodies/sub-commissions to strengthen IOC-UNESCO’s presence and the implementation of its programmes in the world’s different regions.  These Sub-Commissions include IOC Sub-Commission for Africa and the Adjacent Island States, IOC Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, and IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) where the Philippines is a member. 

On 22-25 April 2014, Dr. Gil S. Jacinto, Professor of UP’s Marine Science Institute and a member of the IOC-WESTPAC Advisory Group, attended IOC’s Advisory Group meeting and its 9th International Scientific Symposium held in Nha Trang, Vietnam.   The symposium brought together over 1000 participants, with almost 100 participants coming from the Philippines alone. These consisted of students, researchers, scholars and related policy and programme decision-makers in marine science and oceanography. 

 

A side event of the Vietnam IOC meeting was an open-ended Research Directors’ Forum.  Over 45 Directors, representatives and regional Experts from marine scientific institutes, academic faculties and/or operational agencies in the Indo-Pacific met at the Forum to build and enhance networks; exchange strategic directions of their institutions; identify scientific and technical challenges; and spark regional collaborations in the framework of IOC. 

Ms. Wendy Watson-Wright (seated, 4th from left), UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of IOC, with some of the participants to the Research Directors' Forum

The forum concluded with one Joint Directors’ Statement adopted towards the attainment of the future we want: “A Healthy and Safe Ocean for Prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Dr. Jacinto also attended the IOC Advisory Group meeting held in Phuket, Thailand on 01-03 December 2014.   The meeting reviewed WESTPAC’s current strategic direction and activities, evaluated new project proposals, and devised concrete action plans for the body's strategic and programmatic development.   The meeting emphasized that IOC-WESTPAC should spearhead efforts to bolster regional networks and programmes to ensure a unified, cohesive response to vital issues relating to marine science and sustainability in the region.   Agreement was reached to complete the IOC-WESTPAC Ocean Science Priorities (which has long been discussed but not written up) by 2015. There is greater engagement and commitment of countries for IOC-WESTPAC programs/projects as manifested by their financial and non-monetary contributions. The Philippines should not be left behind in contributing expertise to IOC-WESTPAC, as the country exhibits notable strengths in marine biology, marine protected areas, vulnerability assessments, and coastal oceanography.

On 11 December 2014, Dr. Jacinto met with PH NatCom and discussed IOC-WESTPAC’s current and future activities.  He recommended increased participation of Philippine institutions in IOC-WESTPAC symposia, training courses and research programs; active participation of the Philippines in proposing initiatives/programs/ working groups;  Philippine hosting of one future WESTPAC scientific conference to banner our country’s strengths in the field of marine science and oceanography; and hosting training programs to build capacity in the region aligned with IOC-WESTPAC priorities. 

Dr. Gil Jacinto (2nd row, seventh from left), during the IOC WESTPAC Advisory Committee meeting in Phuket, Thailand