National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Friday the Philippine government reactivated its marine research efforts in the West Philippine Sea with the purchase of additional ocean-going research ships boosting its naval assets.
In a press conference, Esperon, who chairs the National Task Force WPS, said “We are also now reactivating our marine research center in Pagasa Island.”
Esperon added that the Philippines might cooperate with other countries in marine research to better study and protect the West Philippine Sea, which was estimated to suffer $33 billion in marine life damage each year
Esperon said that the Philippines will start cooperation with ASEAN members first.
More vessels from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, among others, will be deployed in the WPS next year as part of an action plan to guard against incursions and illegal fishing in the Philippine waters.
Government infrastructure projects, such as ports and airfields, would be built close to the West Philippine Sea Agriculture undersecretary Cheryl Marie Caballero said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing ( IUUF) threatens to destroy our deep sea marine resources, in the long haul and negatively impact on the supply of marine products and on the livelihood of fishers, in the near to medium ter
“The damages, as of 2020, is estimated to have reached 1,860 hectares with (damage) values of $354,249 per hectare according to a study of the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute,” she said in a briefing organized by the Philippine Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Friday.
She underscored the importance of the West Philippine Sea to the country’s food security with its contribution of 7.39 percent to the country’s annual marine haul in 2020.
Caballero noted that the damage was primarily noted in the reef ecosystem at Panatag Shoal, as well as the Spratly Islands, primarily due to reclamation activities and illegal fishing operations.
“The destructive activities that is happening in the West Philippine Sea includes illegal and reported and regulated fishing. This has been one of the main challenges that create negative impact to the immediate environment, as well as those that distant surroundings,” shed added.
The Department of Agriculture said that fish haul had been declining year-on-year and due to a constraint in supply.
On Friday, it has approved the issuance of a Certificate of Necessity to Import (CNI) 60,000 metric tons (MT) of small pelagic fishes like roundscad or galunggong, mackerel and bonito.
“We are doing a balancing act, wherein our primordial concern is to enhance and sustain the development of our fisheries sector, and provide our fellow citizens affordable fish on their table. Further, such policy decision eases the pressure on food inflation, thus benefitting mostly our poor countrymen whose purchasing power has been reduced due to the economic slowdown and the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Agriculture secretary William Dar.
Imported fish will be sold in public wet markets in Metro Manila and fish-deficient areas, as well.
Importers were advised to sell the imported fish at P88 per kilogram (kg) wholesale, based on 2020 CNI fish auction conducted by BFAR, or lower as a result of the cost unbundling for imported small pelagic fishes.
The import certificate is valid from September 2 to December 2021. The approved quantity is slightly smaller than the supply deficiency as projected by the BFAR, at 65,000 MT in the fourth quarter.
The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has recommended to import a maximum volume of 200,000 MT for the 4th of 2021 and on the 1st quarter of 2022.
Under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 259, Series of 2018, Section 4, the DA will issue a monthly importable volume for the duration of the closed fishing season.