Manila, Philippines — PEMSEA has designated the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines (UP-MSI) as its Regional Center of Excellence (RCoE) on Coral Reef Research and Marine Protected Areas. The recognition was formalized during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between PEMSEA and UP-MSI at the opening of the Fifth East Asian Seas Partnership Council Meeting held last 9 July in Manila.
With the new partnership, PEMSEA and UP-MSI will work together on various initiatives centered on building capacities, sharing knowledge and providing scientific inputs to policies, programs and projects of countries in the East Asian Seas (EAS) region that are aimed at restoring and sustaining marine and coastal ecosystem services, in support of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA). These initiatives include, among many others, providing technical and capacity-building support to PEMSEA-participating governments, as may be requested, including, for example, training and conduct of ecological assessments, preparation and implementation of habitat and resource management plans and programs, establishment and management of marine protected areas (MPAs) and MPA networks, and development and initiation of academic programs to increase available capacity and human resources for integrated management of coastal and marine areas.
The PEMSEA RCoE Program aims to develop partnerships with institutions that have achieved internationally-recognized scientific excellence in specific areas of competence, and to facilitate their support in meeting technical and capacity needs of countries in implementing the SDS-SEA and other commitments through capacity-building, cutting-edge research and technical assistance.
After a thorough process of nomination, external review and endorsement to the EAS Partnership Council, UP-MSI was designated as an RCoE based on its significant contributions to the body of knowledge on marine science, particularly in the field of marine biology and ecology and coral reef studies; quality of its technical services and outputs; relevance of its work in addressing environmental concerns in the EAS region; capacity to transfer and apply relevant skills, technologies and services to other areas in the region; and recognition by peers of its contributions and capability.
Founded in 1974, UP-MSI is now recognized as the National Center of Excellence in the Marine Sciences in the Philippines. The Institute has completed over 300 research projects and numerous publications on oceanography, biotechnology, marine biology and coastal resources management. The Institute operates its own marine laboratory in Bolinao, Pangasinan province in northwestern Philippines, where it conducts a wide range of trainings, including the culture of marine invertebrates and seaweeds, community-based coral restoration, water quality monitoring for sustainable mariculture, and climate change vulnerability assessment. UP-MSI also provides technical support and extension services to national and local governments on various aspects of marine environmental protection and coastal resource management.
As the Center of Excellence for Southeast Asia of the World Bank/GEF Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building for Management Program (CRTR), UP-MSI's marine laboratory serves as a hub for coral reef research in the region. The Institute will continue to support the follow-on to the CRTR Project, the GEF/World Bank project on Capturing Coral Reef and Related Ecosystem Services (CCRES). As the hub of the Coral Triangle Initiative-Climate Change Adaptation Learning Network, UP-MSI has also been providing assistance to various countries in conducting training-of-trainers, climate change adaptation training for coastal communities and vulnerability assessments.
UP-MSI and PEMSEA have a long history of collaboration in capacity-building and application of technical tools in support of ICM program development and implementation, especially in the Philippines. By designating UP-MSI as an RCoE, PEMSEA further acknowledges the importance, distinction and relevance of its work in the region, and formalizes the partnership. By accepting the designation, the Institute demonstrates its willingness and commitment to share its expertise and techniques to the countries in the region through collaboration with PEMSEA.