Filipino scientists call for exclusive access to West Philippine Sea


MANILA, Philippines — A group of Filipino scientists is calling on all concerned parties to stop all activities that would further harm marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.

The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) pointed out that exclusive access for Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea would be the key to utilizing and protecting resources in the area.

“Allowing foreign entities to occupy and exploit these waters would be tantamount to denying Filipino fisherfolks access to their own food and resources,” the UP MSI said in a statement released Tuesday.

This statement came after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that China would continue to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) due to the friendship between the two countries.

The Filipino scientists raised alarm over the declining fisheries production of both municipal and EEZ waters of the Philippines over the past decades.

Fisheries production in Philippine waters is seen to further decline by 25% to 50% in a few years’ time.

The scientists noted that West Philippine Sea EEZ, which is 40% of the country’s total EEZ, produces a higher number of fisheries production compared to municipal waters.

“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 constitutional and national laws,” the statement read.

The UP MSI also pointed out that domestic and international laws pertaining to the EEZ should apply to all without exception.

The institute pointed out that reported presence of Chinese fishing fleets in Philippine EEZ violates local and international laws.

‘Clam and coral harvesting hurts marine habitats’
“Harvesting of clams and corals, dead or alive, results in significant physical damages and ultimate demise of the habitats from where they were taken. These are the same habitats that serve as home and breeding grounds of most marine life, and source of food of many Filipinos,” the Filipino scientists said.

Bearing a warning that damages to marine habitats would affect ecosystem services, the UP MSI called for the establishment of multilateral protected areas, as well as international scientific cooperation on joint studies in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

The group also urged the Philippine government to invest more on science and techhology within the country’s EEZ. It also suggested the creation of a separate Department of Fisheries and Ocean that would be in charge of managing the “largest ecosystem and future biggest contributor to Philippine economy.”

“We call on the public to become more aware and be part of a movement for responsible stewardship not only for WPS but all the seas surrounding the country, wnd we hope that such involvement would not stop in share, likes and comments in social media,” UP MSI said.