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Global NGOs Seek to Scale up Marine Ecosystem Projects

Manila, Philippines — With billions of dollars already invested in a variety of water resource programs in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in Southeast Asia, organizations involved in these projects now aim to build a resource of learnings that would allow successful water resource projects to be replicated in other locations across the region.

Many of these projects were established by various organizations, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), PEMSEA, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank.
Several organizations recently met at the GEF regional workshop on "Transforming Good Practices from Demonstration Projects into Scaled Up Investments and Financing in Integrated Water Resources and Coastal Management," which took place on 10–15 March in Manila.
The discussions looked into long-term sustainable projects that can be replicated across the region.
One topic that arose during the three-day discussion was bringing in private sector participation. Private investments in large marine ecosystems (LMEs) and integrated coastal management (ICM) projects could be pivotal in long-term sustainability. More than for the sake of environmental responsibility, the private sector, composed mainly of commercial industries, can also benefit extensively from these projects. In fact, it was stated that investing in water resources management is "just good business."
Mr. Mish Hamid, GEF Project Manager for the International Waters: Learning Exchange and Resource Network (IW:LEARN), shared, "Water resource projects sustainability and the elements of their success go far beyond government management and the assistance they get from international organizations. The private sector has as much involvement in maintaining the environment, particularly water resource."
"Just about every industry needs water — in agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, energy production, even tourism. Protecting this valuable resource would provide a good supply of water and other materials, which are important economic benefits. These investments would also build partnerships that will bring other organizations to be part of these long-term sustainability projects," Mr. Hamid added.
Ms. Nancy Bermas, Senior Country Programme Manager for PEMSEA, underscored the benefits of having private sector engagement and investments into water resources management. In her report, most of PEMSEA's ICM projects have been successfully implemented, particularly in the Philippines.
Some of these locations were started under public-private partnerships (PPPs) that had corporations investing as part of their combined corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative and business asset continuity.
One successful PPP initiative is the Batangas Coastal Resources Management Foundation (BCRMF), which was supported by First Gen and Malampaya Foundation. This particular project engages in mangrove rehabilitation, biodiversity conservation, artificial reef monitoring and marine protected area management.
Another successful PPP-led project is the Bataan Coastal Care Foundation (BCCF), which had the support of Petron, Ayala Land, San Miguel and the Philippine Ports Authority, among others. Like the BCRMF, the BCCF is also involved in the coastal governance and environmental management of Bataan's coastline.
In these cases, the companies also had direct benefits, as some of their business assets are located at the same areas they are supporting. As such, the core benefits of protecting these coastal areas extend to their businesses as well.
According to Ms. Bermas, one of PEMSEA's goals is to bring together companies with CSR programs, organizing them to distribute the support they can give to coastal ecosystems that need management.
Meanwhile, private organizations involved in coastal management programs are also in the best position to improve the overall management skills of local government executives and community leaders who are the actual targets of these programs. Corporate implementers have skilled people who can provide direct on-site training to partner institutions as well as local residents. Directly involving these skilled implementers can improve the capabilities of local leaders and residents to implement the projects on their own.
Ms. Khristine Custodio, project manager and information and communications technology (ICT) specialist for GEF IW:LEARN, said there are high-tech, software-based tools that can improve the management skills of project implementers. These tools can help locals provide accurate statistical data that improve information management capabilities within a given project area.
IW:LEARN's online applications provide visual tools, website hosting and technical support, as well as a community collaboration platform specific to water resource management and information exchange network.
"We've worked with ADB and the World Bank in having these tools utilized by water resource project planners and managers. We've not had any implementations of these ICT tools with the private institutions yet, but we're now in discussion with a major information technology (IT) company for project monitoring and assessment," Ms. Custodio said.
According to GEF's Mr. Hamid, the recent forum has already encouraged LME and ICM project managers to look into bigger partnerships with private organizations. These collaborations would be crucial in replicating successful water resource management projects in other areas across the Asia-Pacific and the Southeast Asian region.
"It's all about how people would benefit from these programs from clean water, food security and just about anything about global environmental benefits. People can also learn from these engagements and have better understanding about the advantages of having a protected environmental ecosystem to people's way of life," Mr. Hamid said.
This report was originally published at: www.ctknetwork.org/catch-of-the-week/global-ngos-seek-to-scale-up-marine....