Pag-asa Island, Ayungin Shoal eyed as marine protected areas
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.
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.
The MPA would mean human activity would be restricted in order to preserve marine habitat and species.
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.