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

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2019   •   1288

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)

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

USS Ronald Reagan sails in PH waters

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – One of America’s warships has arrived in Philippine Waters in the latest show of the United States’ military might amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea and new flare-ups between the U.S. and China.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan led the Ronald Reagan Strike Group which includes Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62).

USS Ronald Reagan is a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier which carries supersonic F/A-18 jets, spy planes, and helicopters.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines said the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is in the country for a brief port call that “highlights the strong community and military connections” between the two countries.

“This visit is a great representation of our strong friendship, partnership, and alliance with the Philippines, as well as a testament to our joint commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said in a statement.

The warship’s visit to the Philippines comes after the U.S. criticized China’s “destabilizing” behavior in the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday accused China of using predatory economics and debt for sovereignty deals, including weaponizing the global commons and promoting state-sponsored theft of other nations intellectual property.

READ: United States opposes ‘destabilizing’ behavior by China in Indo-Pacific – Pentagon chief

Ronald Reagan, Chancellorsville, and Antietam are forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“This port call is a direct reflection of the longstanding relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines and underscores our strong support to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Rear Admiral Karl Thomas, Commander of Task Force 70 said in the same statement.

While it is one of America’s most visible symbols of resolve and lethal instruments of war, the ship operates on its motto “peace through strength” by using its presence to deter attacks from enemies, according to its website.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines said that while the ship is docked in Manila, the U.S. and Philippine navies will participate in sporting events, engage in senior leadership exchanges, and take part in community relations and cultural events. 

The ships will also be open for tours for students and youth.

“Visiting the Philippines is always incredible and I’m glad that the officers and sailors of Carrier Strike Group 5 will have the chance to deepen ties with our critical ally while enjoying the culture and beauty of this wonderful country,” Thomas said.

The EmbasFor over 65 years, the U.S. and the Philippines have maintained a Mutual Defense Treaty demonstrating our joint commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region. (with a report from Reuters)

Duterte to invoke arbitral ruling in China visit

Marje Pelayo   •   August 6, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte receives a warm welcome from People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping prior to the start of the bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 25, 2019. (KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set for another visit to China in late August.

According to presidential spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo, the Chief Executive is determined to invoke the Hague ruling to Chinese President Xi Jinping which upholds the Philippines’ rights over the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea.

The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the disputed waters falling within its self-proclaimed demarcation line known as ‘nine-dash line’.

He said: ‘Remember that I said before that there will be a time when I will invoke that arbitral ruling — this is the time. That’s why I’m going there.’” That’s what he said,” Panelo revealed citing President Duterte’s words.

The Palace said the President believes this is the right time to raise the issue midway before he steps down from office.

Aside from the WPS issue, the two leaders are also expected to discuss plans on the 60-40 joint exploration in the area.

“He’s also interested that 60-40 joint exploration on minerals, oil; pag-uusapan nila yan (they will discuss these issues),” Panelo noted.

Panelo did not mention of the exact date of the President’s visit to China as well as to how the President plans to bring up the WPS issue at the two leaders’ meeting.

But Panelo said the two heads of state may also exchange words regarding the maritime incident that recently happened in Recto or Reed bank. – with details from Rosalie Coz

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