Proposed West PH Sea protected area may hurt small fishers: Pamakalaya

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 29 2022 06:39 PM

AFP
In this photo taken on Aug. 10, 2022, fisherman Christopher de Vera (C, in green shirt) supervises the loading of ice and provisions to their fishing "mother" boat in the village of Cato, Infanta town, Pangasinan province, as he and his crew prepare to leave for a fishing expedition to the South China Sea. The Scarborough Shoal fishing ground, tapped by generations of Filipino fishermen, is one of many potential flashpoints for military conflict over the South China Sea. China and Taiwan both claim sovereignty over almost the entire sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims to parts of it. Ted Aljibe, AFP

MANILA –– A bill seeking to declare parts of the West Philippine Sea as a marine protected area to counter "human exploitation" might only hurt small fishers, fisherfolk group Pamakalaya said Tuesday. 

Palawan Third District Rep. Edward Hagedorn in House Bill 6474 proposed declaring all low-tide elevations and high-tide features, and an area of 3 nautical miles around the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal as a marine protected area, where government must preserve atolls, coral reefs, and other vital marine resources. 

But Pamalakaya worries that fishermen might be barred from municipal fishing grounds in areas covered by the bill. 

"Kung ipapatupad ‘to, ang direktang tatamaan dito na pagbabawalan ay yung mga maliliit na mangingisda, habang hindi naman nangingisda [dito] yung mga commercial fishing vessel," said the group's president Fernando Hicap.

(If this is implemented, small-scale fishermen will be directly affected because commercial fishing vessels don't reach that part.) 

"Lalong-lalo na yung mga patuloy na pagpasok ng mga Chinese commercial fishing vessel sa West Philippine Sea kasi hindi naman sila nakakarating dito sa ganito kalapit na ano sa ating pangisdaan," he added.

(It won't stop the entry of Chinese commercial fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea because they don't even get that close to our fishing grounds.) 

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Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of the resource-rich waterway. 

The bill's explanatory note states that some activities borne out of the territorial dispute –– like overfishing, poaching, and large-scale ocean filling or reclamation –– have led to significant environmental degradation in the area.

“We must learn to cooperate as one region in the protection of our natural resources while we settle the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea," Hagedorn said.

"The protection of the rich marine resources and environment of the West Philippine Sea is a shared interest and responsibility of all adjoining states around the South China Sea which should be a guiding policy for all of us in the region,” he added.

Hicap said Pamakalaya would relay its concerns about the bill to Hagedorn's office.

But he stressed that the group would continue to support measures protecting the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

"Magkakaisa tayo doon sa gawan natin ng paraan para wag nang makapasok ang mga poacher sa ating exclusive economic zone... Bahagi ang Pamalakya doon sa pagsusulong ng pagpoprotekta ng ating pangisdaan, lalong lao na sa municipal fishing grounds laban sa mga proyekto na sumisira tulad ng reklamasyon, mga offshore mining, at iba't iba pa," he said. 

(We will unite towards efforts to protect our exclusive economic zone from poachers. Pamakalaya is also one with efforts to protect our fishing grounds from destructive activities like reclamation, offshore mining, and others.)

"Ang kailangan natin sa pangisdaan ay rehabilitation, panatilihin natin, na pagyamanin natin yung mga coral reefs tsaka mga mangroves area sa baybay-dagat," he added. 

(Our waters need rehabilitation, and we need to protect and maintain our coral reefs and mangrove areas near the shore.)

–– TeleRadyo, 29 November 2022