Establish ‘no-take zone’ in Spratlys, gov’t urged
On the heels of its victory in the arbitration case against China, the Philippines must lead the other claimant states in exploring ways to reinforce the ruling by “improving both the national and regional fisheries management agenda” in Southeast Asia, an expert said.
This agenda can include establishing transboundary marine parks, areas of joint protection, or “no-take zones,” a setup that can work in the 100 or so small islands and reefs in the hotly contested Spratly islands, said
Ma. Carmel Ablan Lagman of De La Salle University’s Center for Natural Resource and Environment Research.
The study is part of a series of special papers commissioned by think tank Stratbase ADRi.
“Doing this will preserve the living resources they harbor, hopefully so they will replenish adjacent habitats,” she said.
Based on ecological considerations, such as the duration of pelagic larvae, surface circulation patterns, and seasonability of adults and larvae, the Spratlys are among the few remaining healthy, resource-rich areas and habitats in the West Philippine Sea and can thus benefit from multistate intervention.
“There are other reef areas within the region which may serve as refuge, sources or sinks of juveniles and larvae,” Lagman said.
Other strategies that the Philippines can consider include taking advantage of other international ocean policy instruments that can encourage regional cooperation in the region and developing regional-level policies targeted toward small-scale fisheries.
“Small-scale fisheries are seen as a solution, rather than a contributor, to the problem of overfishing. Similar efforts might be due among countries in the West Philippine Sea,” Lagman said.
Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADRi, said the Philippines’ unique achievement in bringing China to task in the South China Sea placed the government in a position to take a more active role in advancing its own fisheries management policy.
“But more crucially, this national policy should be connected to a broader regional platform that respects mutual interests and aims for sustainability,” Manhit said.
Manhit said Stratbase ADRi will host a forum on April 25 at the Tower Club with international relations experts to discuss the latest developments in South China Sea, the Benham Rise and the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in achieving stability in the region.
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