Pursue fishery cooperation in South China Sea, claimants urged



MANILA, Philippines — A regional fishing agreement among claimant states in the South China Sea is seen as another approach to manage the territorial disputes in the hotly-contested waters, which also happens to be one of the world’s most productive fishing zones in the world.

Political scientist and defense analyst Dr. Clarita Carlos said the South China Sea dispute should be seen beyond the geopolitical stage.

“We should view the South China Sea not as a rival claim among six states but rather a concern of all humanity,” she said at a recent forum on the West Philippine Sea.

“The regional fishing agreement will mandate who is going to fish, what, when, how and how much… No one country can be food secure at the expense of the insecurity of others,” she added.

Carlos stressed the agreement is “a functional route to regional cooperation” because the concern on fishing is common to all claimants.

“We are talking fish which is the best and most precious resource there,” she added.

Claimants should also pay attention to the environmental concerns on the South China Sea, she added.

The marine ecosystem in the disputed waters has been seriously threatened in recent years not just due to overfishing and illegal fishing practices, but also because of China’s massive artificial island building.

Carlos said coral reefs are already being destroyed by climate change “but certain countries are hastening the process by deliberately destroying the reefs to build artificial islands on.”

Coral reefs are considered main spawning areas of fish and key source of nitrogen in the marine food chain.

“Let’s make this an environmental issue and a biodiversity issue. Let’s include China,” she said.

The Philippines should partner with other countries and organizations to pursue these goals, she noted.
“String them together and China will have to listen,” Carlos said.

Last week, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government is looking at the possibility of declaring parts of the West Philippine Sea as marine protected areas to institutionalize and promote efforts for environmental and marine protection in the resource-rich waters.