Solon wants 'blue economy' on gov’t’s top priority

By Zaldy De Layola

February 7, 2023, 4:12 pm

MANILA – Representative Jose Francisco Benitez (Negros Occidental, 3rd District) on Tuesday called on the government to prioritize programs that will promote the country’s blue economy in the interest of national economic security, amid various challenges, natural or manmade.

“Our maritime domains compose 88 percent of our territory. (Around) 60 percent of Filipinos live in coastal communities. So, it is crucial to maximize the economic and social benefits of our maritime industries, which include fisheries, shipping and tourism -- and this requires strong commitment and action from concerned government agencies,” Benitez said during the initial deliberation of House Bill (HB) No. 69 in the House Committee on Economic Affairs.

“The Philippines is already a powerhouse maritime economy, given our geography, history and culture, but who benefits from the blessings of the seas?” he added in a separate statement after the deliberation.

Blue economy is a framework for sustainable development of marine and coastal resources, based on principles of stewardship and social responsibility, the Negros legislator said.

“We need to regulate maritime activities to mitigate impact to the environment -- para mapakinabangan ng Pilipino, ng kasalukuyan at ng mga susunod na henerasyon, ang yaman ng ating karagatan (in order to benefit Filipinos of today and the future generations, with the riches of our seas,” Benitez emphasized in his sponsorship of House Bill No. 69, which he authored.

According to the National State of Ocean and Coasts, maritime industries in the country were worth USD11.9 billion in 2016.

“Our maritime economy has great potential to accelerate our full economic recovery from the pandemic and support sustained economic growth. But we need a whole-of-society, whole-of-government approach to ensure that development does not destroy our marine and coastal ecosystems,” Benitez said.

House Bill No. 69, if passed into law, will strengthen inter-agency coordination and planning to identify best use of our maritime zones, including the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), promote blue finance or funding for special economic zones concentrating on sustainable and strategic maritime industries, and enhance maritime domain awareness to flag threats to our marine environments, including unauthorized access, overexploitation and pollution. (PNA)