WWF: Don't fight over disputed waters, save it

by Vincent Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 11 2014 04:03 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2014 03:13 AM

'We only have this one planet. So tell the Chinese: get their shit together,' says Bobby Chinn

MANILA - For the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the issue is not so much who lawfully owns the highly-disputed waters, but how do we save it. How do we conserve the oceans so that future generations can continue to enjoy the resources it bares.

World-renowned chef Bobby Chin, along with officals from the World Wild Fund for Nature and Hamilo Coast, celebrate Coral Triangle Day in Pico de Loro Cove in Nasugbu, Batangas. Photo taken from WWF-Philippines Facebook page

At a media conference promoting Coral Triangle Day held June 9, an official from the global organization dismissed the notion that China is the sole country responsible for destroying waters and poaching wildlife.

Lory Tan, vice chairman and CEO of the local arm of WWF, said China's complete disregard for the ocean's health on the West Philippine Sea is only an indication of how difficult the whole process of saving the oceans is.

He explained that the Philippines has its own fair share of abusing its own waters, citing problems of waste management in Samal Island, which is a small town off the coast of Davao City.

"The answer really there is to learn and work together. The seas feed life. Human life. We depend on the oceans yet so many of us refuse to take responsibility for it," he said.

Tan explained that 40 million Filipinos (about 40 percent of the country's national population) depend on fish as their primary source for protein. He said that this statistic led to the problem of overfishing.

"We always have to face the challenge of striking the balance of serving the area and serving the needs of people," he said.

According to data from WWF, more than 85 percent of the reefs in the Coral Triangle --which spans the waters of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste--are directly threatened by overfishing and illegal fishing.

Studies also show that demand for fish will rise with the ever-growing population numbers, with the Philippines set to hit the 140 million mark in 2030.

"The oceans are limited," Tan explained in a very concise manner. "[Demand] will grow but the ocean doesn't grow that way."

The official then praised Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas, which serves as an entry point to a part of the Coral Triangle called Verde Island Passage, as a leading example on how best to solve the problem.

He said that initiatives such as planting mangroves, carefully placing giant clams to reinvigorate coral reefs, and promoting hand-line fishing are just some ways on how to best conserve the oceans.

Tan also suggested that the Philippines draw from its past--of farming fish, which has been practiced in the country for over 200 years--to better promote sustainability without sacrificing the livelihood of millions of Filipinos.

"It's time for us to draw from our past, translate that experience, understand it and prepare our society for a climate defining future. Very often we forget that the answers are right here," he said.

World-renowned chef Bobby Chinn prepares the dishes he will serve for Coral Triangle Day. He is accompanied by WWF-Philippines CEO and Vice Chairman Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. Photo taken from WWF-Philippines Facebook page


Also at the event was world-renowned television chef Bobby Chinn, who has been an ambassador for the Coral Triangle Day since it was first celebrated back in 2012.

"It is sad that we have this day to be frank because the situation out there is horrific and is one of the reasons why I got involved," Chinn said.

The Egyptian-Chinese chef went on to explain how the experience of diving into ocean waters has helped him better understand the need to conserve the world's largest habitat for wildlife.

"Most chefs don't have a privilege of seeing these coral reefs behind us. They don't see an incredible ecosystem. They see it [fish] as a commodity, a product," he said.

Chinn, however, admittedly does not have a clear solution on how to solve the growing problem. In his own little way, he said that he tries to stay away from tuna as much as he can and revealed that seafood is not a huge part of his menu.

"It is a dilemma. I try and tell my friends, wave the banner as high and loud as I can," he said.

Asked about what he thought of China's recent actions on the West Philippine Sea, Chinn said that it makes him feel embarrassed to be half Chinese.

"I think the problem is that the Chinese have already determined that they think that the South China Sea belongs to China. That's a major problem," he said.

"Look it's outrageous and it's offensive and I think there should be a lot more responsibility with their behavior. Countries should realize that we only have this one planet. So tell the Chinese: Get their shit together. They're making me feel bad for being half Chinese," he added.