MANILA – The First National Summit for the West Philippine Sea (WPS) has formulated plans of action to protect natural resources, security, livelihood and economic potentials.
"The fishermen are our inspiration in developing and implementing national plans of the agency thru the protection of our seas, introducing modern technology, strengthening livelihood and aquaculture, and providing post-harvest facilities to secure an increase and quality in fisheries production,” Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Demostenes Escoto said in a news release on Monday.
More than 500 stakeholders representing national government agencies, civil society, the academe, and executives from 10 provinces facing the WPS attended the summit held Aug. 2 to 4 in Pasay City.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that from 2018 to 2022, the total fisheries production in the WPS averaged 304,586 metric tons (MT), of which 124,009 MT came from commercial fisheries sector and the rest from the municipal fisheries sector.
The data are the combined production for marine capture fisheries of Regions 1 (Ilocos), 3 (Central Luzon), National Capital Region, 4A (Calabarzon) and Mimaropa with provinces facing the WPS.
WPS production contributes an average of 7.19 percent to the total fisheries production and 10.74 percent to the total food fish production in the Philippines from 2018 to 2022.
Dr. Fernando Siringan of the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines-Diliman underscored the importance of the rich corral resources in the WPS.
“One-third of all coral reefs in the Philippines are located here. This is where fish spawn and multiply. Coral reefs also serve as buffers against storms. We need to keep these reefs healthy to protect our islands and livelihoods,” said Siringan.
Mayor Edgar Rapanut of Santa Catalina, Ilocos Sur said the WPS is not only a security concern but also a source of livelihood and food security of Filipinos.
Mayor Prescila Babalo of Sabtang, Batanes said their island municipality is surrounded by vast water and rich in marine products, thus she cannot afford to see her people starving because of intruders.
“We have to protect these resources, but also need to continuously support the fishermen, teach them innovative activities to promote better livelihood,” she added.
Mayor Edward Quilala of Currimao, Ilocos Norte highlighted the participatory process used in the summit which enabled him to learn more about WPS.
“We heard WPS only from the news but here we were able to get into the nitty-gritty details from the participation of everyone. The WPS is very important for the security of our territory, but it is equally important (for) food security,” Quilala said.
Ryder Rogers from the United States Agency for International Development - Environment Office said the WPS is under threat from Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is depleting stocks and threatening the security of fisherfolk.
“Urgent action is needed for the WPS to protect it for future generations. We look forward to working together in the implementation of the action plans. This requires collective action,” he stressed. (PNA)