There is an ocean of hope in the world, and it isn’t too late to make a collective global difference to help save Mother Earth. This was pointed out at the recent annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Nadi, Fiji.
Wearing my corporate hat for the first time, I joined my soul sister Vina Francisco, ADB’s principal human resources specialist, at their 52nd annual meeting. As her official accompanying person, I assisted Vina at the ADB Human Resources booth and was able to attend several talks that were informative and inspiring.
In line with the theme of the event, Vina brought in reusable metal straws as giveaways.
Pacific island countries have always been an important focus for ADB. Since Samoa joined as a founding member in 1966, the number of Pacific island member countries has increased to 15. The newest, and 68th, member is Niue.
This year’s theme, which also marks the first time a Pacific island country hosted the event, was “Prosperity Through Unity.”
Among the issues discussed were sustainable tourism and its potential to boost national and regional development efforts, the role of private sector financing for disaster risk management and climate resilience in Asia and the Pacific, and the importance of continued efforts to help improve ocean health.
It was all very overwhelming, information-wise, so I just focused on the ocean health and sustainable tourism topics. I found out that millions of people in Asia and the Pacific depend on the oceans for their food and livelihoods, thus, the health of our oceans is an urgent priority.
Oceans are in great danger, faced with increasing water temperatures, untreated wastewater and plastic pollution, and unsustainable fishing practices. According to some estimates, by 2050, 90 percent of the region’s coral reefs will be dead, and there will be no commercially exploitable wild fish stocks left. We all have to act now.
Ocean protection requires collective action. ADB is already playing a catalytic role in this area through support for large regional programs such as the Coral Triangle Initiative. Across the region, the bank helps to reduce ocean pollution through investments in wastewater treatment and solid waste management systems.
At this annual meeting, ADB launched an “Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies.” The bank has initiated plans to increase to $5 billion its investment and technical assistance to this urgent concern by 2024.
Through these plans, ADB will help countries reduce, reuse and recycle plastic waste, and address other forms of marine pollution. It will likewise support sustainable fisheries and measures to protect and restore key marine and river ecosystems.
In this regard, sustainable tourism is vital to preserving the healthy state of the oceans and surrounding islands. We all must pursue sustainable tourism by protecting nature, the environment, cultural heritage, and local communities. Otherwise, cities, beaches and forests lose their attraction. Appropriate policies and regulations are essential.
At the opening session of the board of governors at the ADB annual meeting, ADB president Takehiko Nakao and Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama delivered moving speeches about ADB and the milestone event that marked the largest international affair in Fiji. They welcomed the Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, chair of the board of governors, and the rest of the distinguished guests from all over the world.
‘As one wave’
Mr. Nakao said, “Today, we are together in Fiji, surrounded by the beautiful blue ocean. There is a phrase in the Fijian language—dua ga na ua—which means ‘as one wave,’ and it describes the way people move together. This meeting is our opportunity to work together as one wave for the future of Asia and the Pacific.”
At the session about ocean health, it was wonderful to note that the Philippines was cited as a positive example with the rehabilitation of Boracay Island. Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat flew in to be part of “CNBC Debate: Navigating Global Uncertainties in Asia—
Lessons from Tourism, Technology and Trade,” and she did a superb job representing our country.
I also got to see the film, “A Plastic Ocean,” and listened to director/journalist Craig Leeson discuss the topic afterward. The award-winning documentary is about the global effects of plastic pollution and highlights workable technologies and innovative solutions that everyone, from governments to individuals, can do, to create a cleaner and greener ocean.
It was heartbreaking to confront this reality especially because I love scuba diving. I was able to convince Vina, a nondiver, to fly to Fiji a few days before the meeting to do some shark diving in Beqa Island.
The up-close-and-personal encounter with sharks—bull, lemon, nurse, white tip and gray reef—was just unbelievable. Beqa allows divers to experience 6-foot sharks, literally opening their mouths to feed on chummed tuna heads, a few feet away.
Another interesting topic at the ADB meeting was the role of the youth in the development of island nations. Seeing the world through the eyes of our young people is critical to achieving inclusive development.
This year’s host country event, “30 Under 30: The Faces of Fiji’s Future,” showcased the industry-changing achievements of Fijians under the age of 30 through a panel-style discussion.
Happy birthday, Athena
The youth are really the future of the world. It was timely that my youngest daughter Athena, together with her classmates Mika Aglipay and Alessa Bitong, recently did a community topic for her Beacon School class on trash segregation. I’m happy that, in its own way, the school is teaching kids to do their part in making the world a healthier planet.
Today is also Athena’s birthday, so happy birthday, sweetie.