Quezon City, Philippines — Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) and Xavier University (Xavier) - Ateneo de Cagayan together forged an agreement that aims to broaden and increase the number of local practitioners of integrated coastal management (ICM). The partnership establishes Xavier University as a PEMSEA ICM Learning Center for Mindanao. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between PEMSEA and Xavier on capacity building for integrated coastal management was signed on 29 September by Xavier President Fr. Jose Ramon. T. Villarin, SJ and PEMSEA Executive Director Atty. Raphael P. M. Lotilla.
PEMSEA is promoting the establishment of ICM learning centers in partnership with the academe and research institutions in the Philippines and the East Asia region.Of this partnership between the two organizations, Mr. Adrian Ross, Chief Technical Officer of PEMSEA, explains that it "... will also be an integral part in strengthening national programs for scaling up Integrated Coastal Management across the region, targeting 20% coverage of the region's coastline by 2015."As part of ICM scaling up in the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) initiated the development of a national ICM program and recognized the importance of enhancing capacities of local government units and stakeholders in ICM program development and implementation. The national ICM program acts as a supporting mechanism for the implementation of Executive Order 533, adopting ICM as a national strategy for the sustainable development of the Philippine coastal and marine environment."DENR supports this partnership as it brings sustainable development at the grassroots level - emphasizing the practical rather than the theoretical. And with Fr. Villarin, a climate change expert, and Atty. Lotilla, an authority of the Law of the Sea, we have a winning team," declares DENR Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio.PEMSEA envisions sharing its knowledge products as well as its experience gained from 14 years of ICM implementation in the region with various Learning Centers to help strengthen their capacities on the ICM approach and promote the use of local expertise in ICM capacity-building efforts."Today is an afternoon of commitments. PEMSEA, having been hosted by the Philippine government in the last 14 years, re-commits to DENR's initiatives and commits to Xavier as its new partner. PEMSEA is looking forward to the establishment of the network of ICM Learning Centers of which Xavier University is at the forefront," says Prof. Lotilla.Xavier University, through the McKeough Marine Center (MMC), is working on the formalization of an alliance with various stakeholders to come up with a Bay-wide ICM Plan in Macajalar Bay; and addressing major environmental concerns in the area through practical application of scientific studies through community-based activities such as giant clam re-seeding as part of the bigger ICM program."Marine biology is one of the strengths of Xavier and with the dedicated staff of MMC, this partnership will be built into the (University's) program. Restoration of the environment can happen if we can find ways to work together," notes Fr. Villarin.