MANILA, Philippines– The country’s top center for marine sciences on Tuesday, July 2, urged the Philippine government to safeguard the exclusive rights of Filipinos to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (READ: Sovereignty vs sovereign rights: What do we have in West PH Sea?)
Citing the economic, ecological, and food security of current and future Filipino generations, the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) urged the protection of the West Philippine Sea by ensuring the enforcement of the Filipinos’ exclusive access to 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. (READ: Duterte says he can’t ban Chinese from fishing in PH waters)
The UP MSI scientists stressed the importance of the West Philippine Sea, which comprises 40% of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), to the nation’s food security in the face of a sharp decline in the Philippine fisheries industry.
“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,” it said.
Citing reports of Chinese fishing vessels harvesting endangered giant clams and corals in the area, the UP MSI said such activities wreak havoc on the marine environment, and ultimately affect the food supply of many Filipinos.
“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,” said the scientists.