In line with UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), the Philippines aims to further develop ocean governance by strengthening the institutional capacity of Member States in marine scientific research and ocean management. The 12th Inter-Governmental Session of the IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC-XII) was hosted by the Philippine Government and funded by UNESCO and the Philippine National Commission for UNESCO (PH NatCom), otherwise known as UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines (UNACOM).
The Intergovernmental Session, held every two or three years, is the decision-making body of the Sub-Commission composed of national representatives. The session provides a venue for Member States to define strategic directions, review programme implementation, and recommend the programme and budget over the next inter-sessional period forthe approval of UNESCO-IOC governing bodies.
In partnership with governmental agencies and marine scientific communities, IOC-WESTPAC is committed to developing, coordinating and implementing marine scientific research, observations and services on four themes: (1) understanding Ocean Processes and Climate in the Indo-Pacific; (2) ensuring Marine Biodiversity and Seafood Safety; (3) safeguarding the Health of Ocean Ecosystems; and (4) enhancing knowledge of emerging ocean science issues.
The session, that gathered around 110 participants (80 foreign participants and 30 local participants), was jointly organized by the UNESCO IOC-WESTPAC, Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs (Philippines), Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines, and the PH NatCom with the National Committee on Marine Science (NCMS). Local participants were composed of members of the NCMS, chaired by DOST Undersecretary Renato Solidum Jr. The session brought together national governmental agencies and marine scientific communities that work on the improvement of science-policy interface, advancement of international cooperation on marine science, observations and service, and enhancement of institutional capacities to address critical challenges to sustainable development in the Western Pacific and its adjacent regions.
The session also served as an opportunity for the Philippines to highlight country initiatives in science-policy on marine science and to contribute to the final output of the session. It also formalized the new role of the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippine Diliman (UPMSI) through the signing of Letter of Intent (LOI) between the IOC and UP MSI. UPMSI will host the Regional Training and Research Center on Reef Management and Restoration which will be a national center participating in the UNESCO/IOC Regional Network of Training and Research Centers in the Western Pacific(Note: NCMS serves as the focal point of IOC in the Philippines. Through the Center the following services are anticipated: provision of training courses in English, at least once a year on a free of charge basis for students, young lecturers or early career scientists from Member States of IOC in the Western Pacific and adjacent regions; organization and hosting of workshops and/or seminars in English on related topics; and conduct of regional joint research on reef management and restoration. The cooperation between two parties will be mutually beneficial in delivering societal benefits at the national and international level. The Parties foresee that this collaboration will also reinforce planning and implementation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030.)