To represent our team—The Liger Marine Research Team—at the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress, Lux and I were selected to go to the Congress. It held in a city of the Philipines that I can’t even pronounce at first: Iloilo city. The East Asian Seas Congress is held every three years and is open to participants with various backgrounds including stakeholders, students, NGOs, conservationist, researchers within the ASEAN countries and non-country partnership. This year Congress carry the theme of “25 Years of Partnerships for Healthy Oceans, People and Economies: Moving as One with the Global Ocean Agenda.”
Lux and I attended the youth congress which wasn’t open because it was for youth ages 18-35. With the work that we have done and the accomplishment we made, we were allowed to attend the Congress even though we’re 16.
Our adventure started on the 25 of November, where we board our flight to Manila and finally Iloilo. We got to our destination the next morning and were able to meet other youths at the hotel organized for us by the congress. Later, in the afternoon, we registered ourselves for the congress and attended the events held there. Our focus was the work the youth declaration which holds the voice of youths’ commitment who attended the Congress in a form similar to the UN resolution declaration. In addition, we also prepared for the official launch of the Congress the next day; Lux was selected as the flag bearer for Cambodia. At night, we went out for dinner with other youths near a supermarket which is a five minutes walk from where we stay.
Then, on the 27, our day started with two hours of open speeches from people who work for the government and especially in conservation. Then, before lunch, we visited the exhibition hall to see different projects that were on display in booths. We also got to meet governor from Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep, and Koh Kong who were there to be the voice of Cambodia. Later, we were engaged in a presentation about Climate Change; we role play as countries representative and discussed on topics that frequently discussed among countries regarding climate change.
On the 28, there were even more exciting event happening. We got into one of the six groups: mangrove conservation, plastic waste, coral reef degradation, illegal fishing, water pollution, and overfishing and work to brainstorm solutions regarding our topics and the actions youths can take to be part of the solution. Kieran, the facilitator who was at the got conference with us got mangrove conservation, Lux got coral reef degradation, while I got plastic waste. Moreover, Lux and I got an opportunity to talk about LMRT and Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC) as part of the knowledge sharing of good practice agenda. This went really great well. The other delegates were impressed by how we have represented our academy, team, and youths of Cambodia. Many of them approached us during and after the lunch break to tell us about how great and inspiring our presentation was.
Approaching the end of the conference, we are already on the 29 of November! We attended the closing ceremony and learned something really shocking to us. Cambodia has the honor to host the next EAS Congress in 2021! I am looking forward to joining this next conference, even if I may be a university by then because unlike other conferences, it doesn’t end when the conference ends. We have a Facebook working group, where all the youths will discuss what each of us can do to help heal the harmed ocean in our countries and the ocean of the Eastern Pacific region. Anyways, in the afternoon we went to an elementary school and did something called dalaw turo which translates to visit to teach. We were there to participate in ocean conservation awareness campaign with the students there. It was a lot of fun to be there and especially to see how the kids are eager and keen to learn.
After the Congress has ended, all youths delegates went on a field trip to Guimaras island—the island of mangoes— as organized. There, they have so many different types of mangoes that are popular not only throughout the Philippines but also the world. They export their mangoes to the US, UK, Australia and other countries like Japan.
Besides the mango, we also learned about the Igang Bay Marine Sanctuary there which covers an MPA with integrated zoning that is 43 hectares large. They do seagrass monitoring, coral farming, deploying artificial reefs and monitoring, and patrolling the area 24/7. Their work since 2006 has done a lot especially in helping the ocean restore itself from the mass oil spill in that same year. Today the area is very minimally affected by the oil which is really great news.
The trip visit to the many organizations at Guimaras ended in the evening where we have time to get ready for the farewell dinner. It was a lot of fun but also sad to say goodbye to our new friends. But the good news is that we now make so many new friends from ASEAN countries. I made some really close connection with Taeyoung and Yuri who are from South Korea. I still keep in touch with them today.
In a nutshell, the Congress was a really great opportunity to learn about ourselves and others and what we want to do for our ocean. It is a way to get more inspired while also meeting other inspired youths.