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Marine litter, packaging value chains are priorities for 10 member nations
Ten Southeast Asian nations are working on strategic planning and joint action against marine litter and pollution in line with their long-term environmental blueprint.
Delegates from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations wound up the 20th meeting of the ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment on Jan 31, finalizing draft plans.
Results from the meeting, chaired by Crisanta Rodriguez, director of the Philippine Biodiversity Management Bureau in Manila, are expected to be fully conveyed to directors of the working group before release, according to a member of her staff.
Much of the four-day meeting in Phuket, Thailand, was taken up with reviewing documents outlining action on marine litter prevention - specifically, plastic pollution - which will form part of the Blueprint 2025, or the ASEAN Strategic Plan on the Environment.
The working party is trying to formalize documents before ministers meet later this year on Blueprint 2025, which will serve as a "comprehensive" guide to ASEAN member states. The blueprint will outline the extent of cooperation on environmental issues from pollution of the oceans to sustainable development within the region.
The coastal and marine environment will form a major part of the Blueprint, which envisions "an ASEAN Community that engages and benefits the peoples and is inclusive, sustainable, resilient, and dynamic".
A source within the working group said a great deal of effort had been put into the plastics issue as such pollution had become a major problem in the region and was getting worse.
A spokesperson for Greenpeace in Southeast Asia said: "There is a lot of talk going on at the moment, but as yet little is being done to tackle the growing problem of plastics in our oceans and waterways.
"It is a growing problem and one that needs immediate action... not just talk. Since China banned the import of garbage from around the world, much of it is now finding its way into Southeast Asia and into our waters."
A report by the organization last year showed several of the ASEAN member states were among the biggest plastic polluters in Asia. "Plastic pollution is no joke and is a serious problem that needs to be addressed now and not later," the Greenpeace spokesperson said.
Last year, the working group met in Bali, Indonesia, from Oct 31 to Nov 1 to review the current state of packaging value chains and packaging waste management in Southeast Asia, including their contribution to marine pollution in the region.
Participants, which include industry players and academics, discussed approaches for extended producer responsibility, financing schemes, raising public awareness, business opportunities, partnerships along the packaging value chain, standards for packaging design and recycled materials, social benefits and safeguards as well as the role of regional trade and cooperation in ASEAN.
The ASEAN region is endowed with rich natural resources that sustain essential life support systems both for the region and the world. Apart from providing water, food and energy, these natural resources play an important role in sustaining a wide range of economic activities and livelihoods.
Yet in recent years local authorities in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines temporarily shut down some coastal resorts to redress the environment.
Recognizing the importance of environmental cooperation for sustainable development and regional integration, ASEAN has since 1977 cooperated closely in promoting environmental cooperation among its members.
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