Sponsorship speech on the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA)
By Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago
(Delivered by Sen. Pia S. Cayetano)
18 May 2015
Mr. President, distinguished colleagues:
I have the honor to sponsor the concurrence by the Senate with the ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) establishing the PEMSEA Resource Center. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations recommends concurrence within the year.
For more than 20 years, the Philippines has hosted the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA). The country has benefited substantially from this hosting. While the organization’s work is mainly regional in scope and benefits the Philippines indirectly by promoting regional cooperation in the conservation of marine areas, it also works with national government agencies, local governments, the private sector, and the academe on integrated coastal management projects. These projects cover many of the country’s bays.
PEMSEA helped the Philippines meet its International Maritime Organization obligations, and promoted environmental management and safety systems in Philippine ports.
Ratification of the agreement formalizes this decades-old partnership and cooperation with a very collaborative organization. It also gives flesh to PEMSEA’s legal personality and standing as an international organization.
In 1993, the Global Environmental Facility provided funds to a joint United Nations Development Program/IMO project to address marine pollution in East Asia. The task then was to promote an integrated coastal management approach to managing coastal pollution. This project involved Batangas Bay.
From a project focused on marine pollution and ICM, PEMSEA evolved in 2003 to become a regional advocate for the sustainable development of seas and oceans. The 2003 Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA) was formulated in this regard. The SDS-SEA as a strategy is implemented through five-year national implementation plans.
In 2006, PEMSEA’s country partners agreed to designate the organization as the regional coordinating body to implement the SDS-SEA. PEMSEA was empowered with a structure and began to resemble an international organization. To give clarity as to the nature of this evolving organizational arrangement, the country partners met once again in November 2009 to forge a multilateral agreement giving international legal personality to PEMSEA.
On 31 July 2012, in support of its quest to gain international character and make it effective in the implementation of the SDS-SEA, PEMSEA signed with the Department of Foreign Affairs the agreement that is up for concurrence before us.
The Agreement provides PEMSEA free and exclusive use of premises and facilities necessary for its effective operation. PEMSEA will enjoy exemption from tax and customs duties. Along with this, officers and staff are given privileges and immunities, and the office’s archives, communications and records are made inviolable.
The Agreement also has provisions on the free disposal of funds and freedom of entry and sojourn.
Reasons for concurrence
The primary reason for this august body’s concurrence with this agreement is that PEMSEA supports regional cooperation among developing countries to address trans-boundary ocean issues within the East Asian region. At a time when there is dissonance in the region on a number of concerns, the work of PEMSEA is a beacon for peace and collaboration on environmental issues that know no boundaries.
Keeping PEMSEA in the country through this agreement is beneficial to the Philippines as the organization not just works regionally but locally. PEMSEA has a long history of working with our local government units and the academe, first by promoting the concept of integrated coastal management (ICM) and second by executing sustainable coastal development projects. PEMSEA’s close partnership with Filipino communities and researchers will be maintained if it remains in the Philippines.
Advantages of Ratification
Among the other benefits of our concurrence with this agreement is the continuity of the close partnership between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and PEMSEA. For over two decades, this collaboration has resulted in the mainstreaming of ICM and projects for the preservation of our marine areas.
A disadvantage would be the foregone revenues from the tax and duty exemptions that PEMSEA will gain from this agreement. But given the reasons described above, this is outweighed by the gains that the country will secure by keeping PEMSEA in the Philippines.
I humbly recommend that this Senate concur with the ratification of the Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) establishing the PEMSEA Resource Center.