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 On 5 April 2019, Manila, the Philippines. The 12th Intergovernmental Session of the IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC-XII) concluded its four-day session, culminating in a strong willingness of all countries and its partners in the region to engage in and contribute to the upcoming UN proclaimed Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), and a concrete action plan to brace for the Decade. The session was kindly hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines and its Marines Science Institute.

The four day session saw the active participation of nearly 100 delegates and representatives from 16 Member States and 5 international partners including CTI-CFF, PEMSEA, SEAFDEC, SEABED 2030, UN Environment /COBSEA. It is the first time that Fiji, France and Singapore have sent their delegations to this session after a long years’ absence.

WESTPAC session 12 April 2019 Photo group 1

Mr. Hon Generoso Calonge, Assistant Secretary, Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office, Department of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary; and Mr. Vo Si Tuan, Chair of the Sub-Commission opened the session, followed by a mini science symposium consisting of two keynotes, respectively on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), and the Present State and Next Directions of Marine Sciences in the Philippines. These two keynotes laid a solid foundation for the ensuing session discussions in terms of the objectives, key elements, and preparations of the Decade, and the need to promote solution-oriented research in addressing development challenges in the region and beyond.

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Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vo Si Tuan (Viet Nam) - Chairperson of The Sub-Commission IOC/WESTPAC speaking at the meeting

The Sub-Commission elaborated on the preparation of the 11th WESTPAC International Marine Science Conference 2020 scheduled for late August 2020, Indonesia, and its ongoing efforts in assisting Member States in the region to implement SDGs, in particular its SDG 14. The Sub-Commission adopted a set up guidelines for effective communications about programme development and implementation with a view to further improve programme delivery, efficiency and effectiveness; and to synergize efforts and leverage more supports.

In order to improve science-policy interface and advance international cooperation, the Session took an in-depth review and evaluation of the progress on various programmes implementation over the last sessional period, structured around the four identified regional priorities, namely ocean and climate change, marine biodiversity conservation and seafood safety, ocean ecosystem health, and enhanced ocean knowledge on emerging issues.

The Sub-Commission considered that its capacity development initiative entitled “UNESCO/IOC Regional Network of Training and Research Centers (RTRCs) on Marine Sciences in the Western Pacific and its adjacent regions” would contribute greatly to the UN Decade in the field of capacity development and transfer of marine technology. During the opening on the morning of 2 April, all participants witnessed with great pleasure the signing of Letters of Intent, respectively between IOC and the University of the Philippines concerning the establishment of a Regional Training and Research Center (RTRC) on Reef Management and Restoration; and between IOC and the Institute of Oceanography, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology concerning the establishment of a Regional Training and Research Center (RTRC) on Marine Toxins and Seafood Safety. Meanwhile, the Sub-Commission is establishing a Regional Training and Research Center on Marine Plastic Debris and Microplastics at the East China Normal University of China.

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Dr. Dao Viet Ha, Director of Institute of Oceanography of Viet Nam and Mr. Mr. Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary
The signing of Letter of Intent for The establishment of the Regional Training and Research Center (RTRC)
on marine toxin and seafood safety in the Institute Oceanography of Viet Nam/VAST

The Sub-Commission unanimously elected, by acclamation, its officers for the next intersessional period, Dr. Vo Si Tuan (Vietnam) as the Chairperson; Dr. Fangli Qiao (China), Dr. Ken Ando (Japan) and Dr. Zainal Arifin (Indonesia) as the Vice Chairpersons. The Sub-Commission expressed its sincerest appreciation to the Republic of Indonesia and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for their kind offer to host the next WESTPAC session in two years.