Marine protected areas in WPS a ‘great idea,’ says Locsin | Global News

Marine protected areas in WPS a ‘great idea,’ says Locsin

/ 11:30 PM April 24, 2019
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)

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. gave a thumbs up to the government’s plan to declare Pag-asa (Thitu) Island and Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal as marine protected areas (MPAs).

“A great idea and a step towards a larger solution he and I share,” Locsin said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.


The foreign affairs chief issued this remark after he was asked for a comment following the statement of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that the government was looking into the possibility of declaring the island and shoal as MPAs.

Pag-asa Island and Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea are among the nine Philippine-occupied outposts in the Spratly Islands.

In a statement, Esperon said that “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.”

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

Eperon’s statement came amid growing concerns over the alleged incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

Earlier, the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it had monitored a surge of Chinese vessels swarming around Pag-asa Island since January.


READ: Chinese sea militia swarms around Pag-asa Island – military

Meanwhile, Locsin said he “fired off a salvo of diplomatic notes” to China prior to his Beijing trip last March regarding the issue.

In an interview with CNN Philippines last week, he also noted that “every incident reported to me by the task force of the Armed Forces is a subject of a note that I sent out.”

“I just don’t wanna make a fuss about it because, one: it’s supposed to be between us. If it should ever come to a foreign tribunal then I can say we never yielded, we never consented by silence,” Locsin added.

A reported mass harvesting of giant clams in Scarborough Shoal also prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file another diplomatic note to China and to warn of legal action for its alleged violation of “conventions on environmental protection.”

READ: Philippines ‘taking legal action’ vs China over Scarborough clams

“We took the…report of the national task force on the West Philippine Sea, we said this is verified by us, we protest this, this is illegal and in fact you’re also violating conventions on environmental protection… for which we can take legal action,” Locsin said in the same interview.

The disputed South China Sea is a resource-rich waterway that boasts of a wide diversity of organisms and is considered to be one of the world’s most productive fishing zones.

However, destructive fishing practices, climate change and building of artificial islands have caused serious threats to the marine environment.

Declaring Pag-asa Island and Ayungin Shoal as MPAs would mean that human activity would be restricted in order to preserve marine habitat and species in those areas.


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TAGS: Ayungin Shoal, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., marine protected areas, maritime dispute, Pag-asa Island, Teodoro Locsin Jr.
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