The passage of a measure in the House of Representatives that seeks to declare the waters around the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and Scarborough Shoal as a marine protected area will be a boon for Filipino fishermen in the area.
The benefits from the enactment of House Bill (HB) 6373 were explained by Palawan Third District Rep. Edward Hagedorn in an interview with The Manila Times.
Hagedorn said there will be more fish as long as spawning and breeding sites, which are located within three nautical miles of the Kalayaan and Scarborough Shoal, are safeguarded.
“Former Justice Antonio Carpio’s experience in marine science enabled him to assist me in conceptualizing the bill,” he said.
Hagedorn said he shares Carpio’s advocacy “to maintain and preserve Philippine territorial and maritime sovereignty, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.”
Republic Act 7586 or the “National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act,” as amended by RA 11038, bans the use of fishing gear and practices that destroy “coral reefs, seagrass beds or other marine life” in Kalayaan Group and Scarborough Shoal Marine Protected Area (Kigss-MPA).
Hagedorn said that when he was mayor of Puerto Princesa City, “the first thing I did was to ensure that the entire coral reef system and the adjacent forest were saved.”
“Sadly, a significant portion of the coral reef has been destroyed due to cyanide and dynamite fishing, not by outsiders but by our local fisherman,” he said.
“Since there is no law, we must first safeguard our resources from within before defending them from outside threats,” Hagedorn added.
He said he admired the idealism of certain critics, such as Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, who on December 15 denounced the swarming Chinese warships in the West Philippine Sea.
Manuel “is correct in his assessment of the Philippine Economic Zone, but I’m confident the higher-ups are working on the diplomatic solution,” Hagedorn said.
HB 6373 seeks to create the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal Protected Area Management Board (Kigss-PAMB) as well as the Kigss Protected Area Management Office (Kigss-PAMO).
The two agencies will have the same composition, powers and functions as defined in Sections 9 and 10 of RA 7586 as amended.
The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, created by virtue of the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act, will be a member of the Kigss-PAMB.
The bill tasks the Kigss-PAMB and Kigss-PAMO to come up with a management plan within a year from its effectivity.
The plan must “include specific strategies and programs for the preservation and protection of atolls, reefs and corals within the Kigss-MPA.”
The Kigss-PAMB and Kigss-PAMO shall engage the cooperation of other government agencies in the implementation of the management plan.
The Department of Transportation, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government will provide assistance in the monitoring of activities within the Kigss-MPA.
If the bill is passed into law, P10 million will be allocated for its implementation.
Hagedorn said that “with this bill, we hope to get the interest of all the surrounding states to have one common ground and that is to protect [the environment]. Hindi ito about territorial disputes eh (This [bill] is not about territorial disputes); this is about the protection of environment,” he said.
Another congressman, Cagayan de Oro Second District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, previously asked Congress to pass House Bill 2465 which establishes “the archipelagic sea lanes in the Philippine archipelagic waters, prescribing the rights and obligations of foreign ships and aircraft exercising the right of archipelagic sea lane passage.”
HB 2465, which Rodriguez has re-filed and is currently before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, prevents foreign ships from illegally entering Philippine seas.
He said the bill was passed by the House but was not approved by the Senate.
“No Chinese or any vessel should be allowed in our waters without our approval unless for innocent passage in the designated archipelagic sea lanes,” he said.
Leave A Comment