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Pag-asa Island, Ayungin Shoal eyed as marine protected areas

/ 09:18 PM April 24, 2019
top view of Pag-asa Island

Reclamation work on the Philippine-occupied Pagasa (Thitu) Island in the South China Sea can be seen in these satellite images provided by Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

MANILA, Philippines — The government is looking into the possibility of declaring Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) and Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea as marine protected areas (MPAs).

“With an MPA in place, we aim to institutionalize and promote efforts towards environmental and marine biodiversity protection within the resource-rich West Philippine Sea,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

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Both Pag-asa Island and Ayungin Shoal are part of the nine occupied outposts of the Philippines in the Spratly Islands.

The South China Sea is home to a wide diversity of organisms and one of the world’s most productive fishing zones. But destructive fishing practices, climate change and building of artificial islands have caused serious threats to the marine environment.

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The MPA would mean human activity would be restricted in order to preserve marine habitat and species.

Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal

In 1999, the Philippine Navy deliberately grounded the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal to mark the country’s claim to the reef in the Spratly archipelago. The 100-meter-long World War II-era tank landing ship hosts a small contingent of Philippine Marines. Ayungin, which China also claims, lies 195 kilometers southwest of Palawan, well within the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone. (File photo by GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Esperon later told reporters that the government would use the Philippine Coast Guard, the Armed Forces of the Phlippines, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the local government to enforce it.

“Assets natin kailangan andun para mag-enforce kasi kung mag-proclaim ka ng area at wala ka namang enforcement that is useless,” he said.

[Our assets have to be there to enforce it. Proclaiming marine protected areas without enforcement is useless.]

He expressed hope that their initiative would pave the way for other countries, including China, to comply and perhaps consider it as joint marine protected areas.

Esperon also said China’s harvesting of giant clams, or taklobos, in Scarborough Shoal is illegal and affects the biodiversity of the area and those surrounding it.

He said the government had already undertaken diplomatic and legal actions to protect humanity’s resources from illegal fishing, poaching and environmental abuse.

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TAGS: Ayungin Shoal, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., marine protected areas, Maritime Dispute, Pag-asa Island, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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