Fish production improves but corals are dying – BFAR

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2019   •   1052

Bleached corals in Coron, Palawan

MANILA, Philippines – Data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported improvements in fish production in the country as compared to the previous years.

In 2018, the country had 4.25 million metric tons of fish which was higher by one percent compared to 2017.

BFAR attributed this positive development to improvements in the country’s aquaculture which increased by three percent from the previous years when fish production was hugely affected by weather disturbances, illegal fishing, water pollution, and stricter implementation of the Fisheries Law.

The disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea contributes 2.34 percent of the country’s total production from provinces in Regions 1, 3, 4A and 4B.

Meanwhile, almost half of the production is contributed by Regions 9, 12 and the Bangsamoro Region, according to BFAR.

Despite this, the Bureau noted that from the 27 thousand hectares of coral areas in the country, only one percent are in good condition.

The agency added that the Philippine government loses P68.5-B every year because of illegal fishing.

Climate change also adds damage to the corals in a phenomenon called coral bleaching.

Sadly, according to BFAR, this phenomenon is expected to persist.

“We will see more coral bleaching. Ibig sabihin yung pagkakamatay ng mga corals dahil tumaas halimbawa yung water temperature o mas na-expose sila ngayon sa sun, (It means the corals are dying because of increasing water temperature as they are more exposed to the heat of the sun),” explained Sammy Malvas, BFAR’s assistant director for admin services.

 Likewise, the agency noted that even the size of fish is now affected.

“Example na lang iyong sardines, maliliit pa naging mature na, (Example sardines, they easily mature but their size remains small), Malvas added.

Doctor Deo Florence Onda of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute said that the West Philippine Sea should all the more be protected because it has a vital role in the region considering that it is the center of biodiversity in the world.

“Isa lang indikasyon noon, kung maraming pumupuntang fishermen doon sa West Philippine Sea, ibig sabihin marami silang napapakinabangan at marami silang nakukuha, (It indicates one thing: More fishermen fish in West Philippines Sea because it is rich in resources and has a lot of fish), Onda said. – with reports from Rey Pelayo

DND assures Philippine sovereignty even with Chinese companies in gov’t projects

Marje Pelayo   •   September 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines— Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez expressed concern that allowing the third telecommunication company, Dito Telecommunity Corporation, to construct cell sites in military camps would threaten national security.

Rodriguez noted that the firm is 40 percent owned by the Chinese.

“Can you imagine there will be Chinese allegedly employees of Dito who may be spies for China – where we have a conflict especially in the West Philippine Sea – entering our camps and being able to secure installations which should not be known by outside forces?” he said.

But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Dito will only be allowed to construct cell sites within existing ones.

“Most camps actually in the Philippines already have cell towers of Globe and Smart,” Lorenzana explained.

“The contract for the Memorandum of Agreement that I signed or approved between the (the Armed Forces of the Philippines) and Dito is that, it will just be limited to those camps as well,” he added.

Rodriguez also opposed the Philippine government’s accommodation of Chinese contractors for the Sangley Airport project, the same Chinese contractors involved in the contractions of structures in the West Philippine Sea.

“The advice that we can give maybe to the President is to properly screen these companies before they can conduct business here.” Lorenzana noted.

“As I said a while ago, the President had already decided that they can continue their project here so all we can do now is to be very, very sure that their entering into our territory will not endanger our sovereignty,” he added.

Lorenzana also reminded that if the contract gets canceled, the Philippine government will be fined with a huge amount. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Lawmaker calls on gov’t to scrap contracts with Chinese firms involved in militarization of WPS

Marje Pelayo   •   August 31, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros urges the government to scrap all contracts with Chinese companies that are involved in constructions of military structures and other establishments in the West Philippine Sea. 

This follows the move by the United States government to blacklist a total of 24 Chinese firms that are helping the Chinese military in establishing artificial islands and militarized the disputed territory in the South China Sea and China’s alleged missile launches in the island. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin previously announced that he would recommend that the Philippine government cut business ties with Chinese companies if proven that they are involved in the militarization activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros argued that it is alarming to know that the Philippine government is dealing with Chinese firms that destroy the country’s own territory. 

The lady senator claimed that several subsidiaries of the China Communications Construction Company Limited that were among the companies the US government blacklisted, have existing Memorandum of Understanding with the Philippine government particularly in infrastructure projects in Manila, Davao City, Cebu and Clark in Pampanga.

Among these projects include:

  • Davao Coastline and Port Development Project
  • Manila Harbour Center Reclamation Project
  • Cebu International and Bulk Terminal Project
  • Manila-Clark Railway

Additionally, the Chinese firm China Harbor Engineering Company has won the bidding in the construction of an access road to New Clark City. 

Hontiveros said these projects must stop.

“Hindi pwedeng magpatuloy ang mga proyektong ito. [These projects must stop.] If we continue with these deals, it may be equivalent to giving up our territories,” Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, the group Akbayan urges President Rodrigo Duterte to reveal to the public all Chinese-loaned contracts that his administration has entered into.

“A comprehensive debt audit of all Chinese loans is necessary to determine if these loan agreements are legitimate, don’t carry unjust conditionalities that could undermine our country’s sovereignty, territory, economy and security, and not the result of questionable transactions,” Akbayan Chairman Emeritus and former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Etta Rosales said. 

Malacañang is yet to respond on the matter. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

PH Defense chief blasts China over ‘illegal provocation in West Philippine Sea’ remark

Robie de Guzman   •   August 24, 2020

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has slammed China for calling on the Philippines to stop conducting “illegal provocations” in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, Lorenzana said it is China that should stop its illegal provocations in the disputed area, including its illegal occupation of territories that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as it has no right over the resource-rich region.

“That area is within our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) the Chinese have no right to claim they are enforcing their laws since they are illegally occupying the country’s EEZ,” he said.

“Their so-called historical rights over an area enclosed by their 9-line doesn’t exist except in their imaginations,” he added.

China earlier urged the Philippines to stop its provocations, adding that sending planes over the air space of the disputed Spratly Group of Islands was an intrusion of China’s security and sovereignty.

Beijing issued the statement after Manila filed a diplomatic protest for China’s “continuing issuances of radio challenges [against] Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it also filed the diplomatic protest after members of the Chinese Coast Guard allegedly confiscated the fish aggregating devices used by Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc in May.

Following the incident, the Philippines deployed military planes over the disputed area.

Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal is a vital spawning ground for fish that lies over 100 nautical miles from the coast of Masinloc, Zambales.

It is among the areas in the South China Sea being claimed by China, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Malaysia, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hage rules that under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, the Bajo de Masinloc is a common fishing ground and that China’s claims over the strategic body of water are not valid. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

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