The Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) kicked off its two-day 7th East Asian Sea (EAS) Congress on December 1 with Cambodia hosting the event in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.

The congress seeks to forge stronger partnerships to achieve the vision which serves as the theme for the conference – Charting a New Decade of HOPE (Healthy Oceans, People and Economies) – in the region over the next decade, according to environment minister Say Samal.

Samal said many things had been achieved already from collaboration under the PEMSEA mechanism and that it has been used to lay a strong foundation moving forward to further ensure better marine protection, sustainable livelihoods and a sustainable blue economy.

“So far, PEMSEA has achieved over 17 per cent coverage of the region’s coastlines under ICM, impacting more than 42,000km of coasts and over 146 million people living in coastal and watershed areas,” he said, referring to Integrated Coastal Management.

According to the PEMSEA website, ICM “addresses the governance of human activities affecting the sustainable use of goods and services generated by coastal and marine ecosystems” in order to reach an optimal balance between economic productivity and environmental sustainability.

Samal said Cambodia’s coastline spans 440km and its marine and maritime sectors include fisheries, ports and shipping as well as coastal tourism, all of which accounts for approximately 16 per cent of the country’s GDP with coastal tourism making up 85 per cent of that total.

Samal said Cambodia has joined all of the relevant marine and ocean conventions, agreements and protocols, integrating them into the national legal and policy frameworks due to the Kingdom’s belief that multilateralism is the best means for achieving its goals.

“Through the PEMSEA mechanism, we are in a good position to provide solutions for effective management of coasts and oceans across the shared seas of East Asia as we have been doing over the past two decades,” he said.

According Samal, the government aims to transform Preah Sihanouk province into a model multi-purpose special economic zone with its deepwater port serving as an international gateway and logistics centre.

Speaking at the opening of the congress, Preah Sihanouk governor Kuoch Chamroeun said the Kingdom has beautiful beaches in all four of its coastal provinces, which form the Bay of Cambodia, a member of UNESCO-supported Most Beautiful Bays of the World Club.

Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun speaks at the 7th East Asia Sea (EAS) Congress in Sihanoukville on Wednesday. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

He said Cambodia has adopted a long-term coastal strategy for Sihanoukville using ICM to ensure sustainable development of coastal and marine resources, as well as to preserve the pristine sandy beaches and rich marine biodiversity while improving livelihoods in coastal communities.

“Preah Sihanouk province has implemented a Coastal Use Zoning Scheme to address multiple-use conflicts in coastal areas and to ensure long-term use of coastal and marine resources,” he said.

Chamroeun said the government has just finished construction on 37 city roads and has improved other important infrastructure including the international seaport, international airport, expressways and railways.

“All of these have an important role in promoting and transforming Preah Sihanouk into a financial, commercial and business centre as well as an industrial and tourism hub – all in a sustainable and inclusive way,” he said.

The EAS Congress also inaugurated the PEMSEA Network of Learning Centers (PNLC) to reaffirms its members’ commitment to work together and contribute towards sustainable development of the coasts and oceans in the East Asian Seas.

The centre will also support the implementation of a sustainable development strategy, according to Van Monyneath, secretary-general of the environment ministry’s National Council for Sustainable Development.

“I sincerely hope that we can work together towards building a steadfast network that is committed to support sustainable coastal and ocean development at the local, national and regional levels,” Monyneath said.