Philippines: New Ramsar site

Women in front of project sign

Inauguration of Ramsar Site NOCWCA; Photo: GIZ

20 October 2016 the “Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area” (NOCWCA) of the Philippines has been declared as a new Ramsar site. The project “Protected Area Management Enhancement in the Philippines (PAME)” supports its partners in the conservation of the wetland regions of central Negros Occidental Province through the establishment of local conservation areas and finalizing their management plans as part of the Ramsar requirements. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that emphasizes the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands primarily as habitat for wildlife and as source of livelihood for many people. 

PAME is funded by the International Climate Initiative of the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB) and is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It collaborates with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Negros Island Region (NIR) and 10 coastal municipalities and cities of Negros Occidental Province together with the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental through the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO).

The NOCWCA has a contiguous coastline of more than 109 kilometers, 90.000ha covering 52 coastal barangays (Filipino term for a village or community) within three cities and seven municipalities. The wetlands are the source of livelihood for many coastal residents and fishermen who depend on the daily catch of shellfishes. NOCWCA is known for its rich and bio-diverse coastal resources, particularly, mangroves, shellfishes including economically important species such as oysters, green mussels, angel wings shells, shrimps and crabs. At least three species of the globally threatened marine turtles namely the Hawksbill sea turtle (critically endangered), green sea turtle (endangered) and the Olive Ridley turtle (vulnerable) inhabit the coastal areas along with the Irrawaddy dolphin (vulnerable). The NOCWCA is also a haven for at least 73 species of water birds.

NOCWCA has a wide plot covered with mangrove species that serves as buffer during monsoon, protection from erosive forces, stabilizes the shoreline, and serve as feeding and roosting for marine and coastal wildlife.

One of the pressing threats surrounding the site is the conversion of wetlands and mangrove forests into commercial areas, aquaculture areas (fish and shell farming) and residential areas. The growing population also poses threat of pollution, toxic and non-toxic pollutants from industrial waste (e.g. sugar cane mills) and coliform contamination along the estuaries and wetlands. Overfishing and illegal fishing also exist in the municipal waters along NOCWCA which threatens biodiversity and livelihood of local communities.

The project PAME is supporting the Philippine Government in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It contributes to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets, in particularly Aichi Target 11 on the increase and improvement of protected areas, by cooperating with local partners to improve the legal framework for protecting and managing designated protected zones in marine and terrestrial 'key biodiversity areas'. These areas are of particular international significance in conserving biodiversity. The project enhances the protected area management capacity of the DENR through training measures and workshops for sharing experience. It is cooperating closely with local communities and giving particular consideration to the concerns of women and indigenous populations.