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Protecting our Ocean

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos July 25,2019 - 07:10 AM

The Second Quarter 2019 Social Weather Stations Survey, conducted from June 22-26, 2019, found 51 percent of adult Filipinos with little trust in China, for a net trust rating of -24, classified by SWS as poor. 

In the aftermath of the June sinking of the Filipino ship in the Recto Bank, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released on Thursday, July 11, revealed that 93 percent of Filipino adults agree that “it is important that the Philippines regain control of the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea.”

Thus, many were not too happy with the President’s pronouncement on the West Philippine Sea during his fourth State of the Nation Address last Monday. Sovereignty is non-negotiable and not a few flinched.

 We must protect our national territories which covers the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction. Article XII, section 2 of the Constitution expressly provides that “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

The West Philippine Sea is for Filipinos. The scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute likewise said in a statement issued on July 2, portions of which read as follow:

“The UP Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) believes that our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) should be actively protected and cared for to safeguard the economic, ecological, and food security of current and future Filipino generations.

The EEZ is the area surrounding the Philippines up to 200 nautical miles (370km) from the shore. A rich fishing ground plentiful in marine life, the WPS EEZ stretches from Batanes to the south of Balabac in Southern Palawan, including the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratlys. While the municipal waters, which are nearer to shore are more productive in terms of fish catch per unit area, the WPS EEZ, which contains around 40 percent of the Philippines’ EEZ, has higher total fisheries production than the WPS municipal waters combined… UP MSI would then like to shed light and share information on the ecological implications and social consequences of tolerating foreign access.

Fisheries production of both municipal and EEZ waters of the country has declined over the past decades, and is predicted to drop further by 25-50% in a few years’ time. Part of solving the problem is understanding the processes and interconnectivity of oceans and seas. For example, eggs, larvae, and small fishes born in the WPS and the larger Spratly Islands drift along ocean currents and settle in the coastal areas of Western Palawan and Northwestern Luzon. Such information is important in crafting effective and appropriate management strategies that will help us sustain local stocks, securing food for current and future generations of Filipinos.

The key to utilizing and protecting resources in the WPS EEZ is EXCLUSIVE ACCESS. Allowing foreign entities to occupy and exploit these waters would be tantamount to denying Filipino fisherfolks access to their own food and resources. 

Our exclusive economic rights also come with equal responsibility to protect, manage, and sustainably use the resources in our WPS EEZ – a responsibility enshrined in our constitution and national laws…Losing these habitats and ecosystems would mean losing many resources that could benefit future generations of Filipinos.”

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