Scientists call on neighboring nations to protect West Philippine Sea or else…

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2019   •   1399

Still image of disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea taken from US Navy surveillance video May 21, 2015. REUTERS/US Navy

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino scientists have returned from their two-week-long expedition to the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Chief Scientist Dr. Deo Florence Onda of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute said they have at least a year to test the specimen or organism samples from the area.

The project is funded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in cooperation with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Onda noted the significance of WPS especially in the cultivation of marine resources being the center of the world’s biodiversity and serves as breeding ground for various species of fish that migrate to nearby oceans particularly in the northern part of Luzon.

“Iyong mga itlog ng isda, ng corals, pati maliliit na isda dinadala ng anod. Mula (sa) West Philippine Sea, aanurin ang mga iyan mula sa West Coast ng Luzon at sa West Coast ng Palawan,” Onda explained.

(Fish and corals spawn and eggs are carried away by the currents. From the West Philippine Sea, they will be carried away to the West Coast of Luzon and the West Coast of Palawan.)

“Ngayon ang mga maliliit na isda tsaka mga itlog na iyon, kapag nakarating sa West Coast ng Palawan, doon sila lumalaki. So iyong nakikinabang talaga sa mga itlog na nanggagaling sa West Philippine Sea ay ang West Palawan at West Luzon,” he added.

(Now, the small fish and the eggs, when they reach the West Coast of Palawan, that’s where they will breed. So those who benefit from the eggs that are coming from the West Philippine Sea are West Palawan and West Luzon.)

During the expedition, the team noticed damaged corals possibly a result of illegal fishing.

Such practice must stop, they argued, because the corals serve as natural habitat for breeding fish.

“Ang isang corral doon mangingitlog ang isda. Lalangoy siya papunta sa kabilang coral reef. Doon siya lalaki tapos doon naman siya mangingitlog,” the scientist said.

(Fish lay eggs in the corals. They will migrate to other coral reefs. That’s where they will grow and eventually lay their eggs as well.)

“So meron kang pinagmumulan, meron kang pinupuntahan. Kung iyong pinagmumulan mo nawala, ano mangyayari doon sa mga populasyon na pupunta doon sa kabilang reef? Mawawala din,” he noted.

(So you have the origin, then the destination. If the origin is destroyed, what will happen to the population that will migrate to other reefs? They will be lost.)

According to the team, local fishermen lament the depleting population of fish in the area as they are not catching as much as they used to in the past.

“Sabi nila: Matagal na kaming walang nakukuha o nahuhuling malalaking Lapu-lapu dito,” Onda said referring to his conversation with one of the local fisherfolks.

(They said they have been catching only a few large Lapu-Lapu.)

Aside from being a source of fish, the expedition team hopes to find an organism that could be used as ingredient in making new medicines that could help cure certain diseases like cancer.

“Sa pag-aaral namin, marami sa mga shells for example ang tawag namin cunus ay pwede pagmulan ng mga bagong gamot, pain killers, pwedeng gamot sa cancer,” Dr. Onda explained.

(Based on our study, more shells for example or what we call ‘cunus’ can be good sources of new medicines like pain killers or cure for cancer.)

“Iyong mga bacteria na nakikita mo sa sponge o nasa coral, sa MSI nakita naming na pwede silang i-exploit din para sa anti-bacterial activity bilang isang anti-biotic or bilang isang anti-cancer,” he added.

(The bacteria that we see in sponges or in corals, through MSI, we discovered that they can be exploited for anti-bacterial activity such as an antibiotic or an anti-cancer.)

Dr. Onda noted that the increase in number of nations fishing in the area is an indication that the WPS is rich in marine resources.

Thus, the UP Marine Science Institute is encouraging neighboring countries to protect the West Philippine Sea because the impact will be huge if the area is exploited.

Ultimately, the group said, nations benefiting from its resources will be the ones to suffer.

“Kapag nagpakawala ka daw ng isang itlog sa West Philippine Sea at titingnan mo yung galaw ng dagat, yung mga itlog na iyon pwedeng madeposito sa China, sa Vietnam, sa Thailand, sa Malaysia, sa Indonesia, sa Brunei, sa Pilipinas,”

(When you release eggs in West Philippine Sea and consider the movement of the ocean, those eggs may end up in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.)MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

DND: ‘Green Aura’ issue must not be blown out of proportion

Maris Federez   •   November 3, 2019

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/ERIK DE CASTRO

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Sunday (November 3) downplayed reports in certain news outlets that a commercial vessel with Filipino crew aboard, the “Green Aura”, was repeatedly challenged by Chinese Coast Guard vessels near Bajo de Masinloc on September 30, 2019.

In a statement, the DND said, “Since the Green Aura, a Liberian ship, was able to safely reach its intended port of destination unimpeded, we believe that what happened should not be blown out of proportion or sensationalized.”

The defense department further said that an official report of the incident has been forwarded to the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) for its appropriate action.

The DND has also reiterated its call “for all countries to exercise prudence and respect freedom of navigation and passage in the WPS.”

It stressed that Bajo de Masinloc is well within the Philippine EEZ and that the 2016 arbitral ruling declared it as a common fishing area.

The DND also called on the Chinese government to “respect international maritime laws if it wants to earn the respect of the international community.” (with details from Lea Ylagan) /mbmf

All eyes on PH as Duterte arrives in China to discuss sea row

Marje Pelayo   •   August 29, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in China on Wednesday evening (August 28) for a three-day working visit and meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Palace is confident that China will hear the President once he opens up The Hague’s arbitral ruling over the territorial dispute in the West Philippines Sea considering the solid bond that the two countries have already established.

The discussion, according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, aims to prevent further escalation of tension and violence at sea due to the decade-long maritime dispute.

“I think China will have an open ear, after all they kept on saying that we’re friends and friends can always talk on anything,” Panelo said.

“Moreover, it’s really about time to talk about it since if the concern is maritime security, and peace in the region, then they really have to talk because this has been a source of some irritants between the two countries as well as other countries,” he added.

Also, included in the agenda of the President’s visit is the proposed joint exploration with China in the WPS under the ’60-40 sharing scheme.’ This means that the Philippines will get 60% of the profit while China will receive the remaining 40%.

“It’s mutually beneficial because both countries are agreeing on a modus vivendi with respect to the exploitation of natural resources,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang has accepted the recent apology of the owner of the Chine vessel to the involved Filipino fishermen in the June 9 maritime incident in Recto Bank.

“We accept the recent apology extended by the owner of the Chinese vessel to our fishermen affected by the incident,” Panelo said.

“We likewise welcome the owner’s humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss,” he added.

Duterte and Xi will meet on Thursday evening (August 29) and shall witness the signing of certain agreements between the two countries.

Joining President Duterte in China are nine of his Cabinet officials to include:

  1. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.
  2. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea
  3. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III
  4. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
  5. Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez
  6. Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena
  7. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi
  8. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon
  9. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

Also included in the President’s delegation are Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Prospero De Vera III and Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Senate to probe on Chinese investments in three islands in Cagayan, Zambales provinces

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2019

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Senate seeks to investigate reports that Chinese investors are planning to develop the Fuga Island in the province of Cagayan and the islands of Grande and Chiquita in Zambales.

In a statement, Senator Risa Hontiveros said she is wondering why the government allowed these movements despite China’s alleged bullying practices in the West Philippine Sea.

She added that these islands are no ordinary islands as they have an important role in the military’s history.

“Amid China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea, it is baffling that the Duterte government allowed this to happen. These are no ordinary islands. These parcels of land are strategic maritime fronts that play a significant role in our military history, which only proves how invaluable they are to our national security,” the senator’s statement reads.

Senator Panfile Lacson also pointed, “security concerns dahil kung Chinese investors ang magde-develop at yung proximity dun sa mga facilities. Lalo’t may report na lumabas na yung western command in Palawan merong allegedly Chinese tourists na kumukuha ng pictures so anong intention [security concerns because if Chinese investors will the ones to develop (these islands) and their proximity is in (our military) facilities. Especially now that the Western Command in Palawan has reported that there is an alleged Chinese tourists taking pictures, on what intention]?”

Aside from the three islands, the Senate may possibly discuss the development of the 32-hectare lot of Island Cove Resort in Kawit, Cavite that is to be used by the Philippine Off Shore Gaming Operator (POGO) industry.

This is only several kilometers away from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) air and naval bases. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

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