THE Philippines is going to be a significant beneficiary of the Australian government’s P3.6-billion maritime program investments in the Indo-Pacific region.
This was disclosed by Australian Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Dr. Moya Collett at a forum billed, “Protecting the Seas: Preserving Biodiversity Through Marine Protection in the West Philippine Sea,” organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute.
“Australia’s relationship with the Philippines spans defense and security, development and education, trade and investment, and people to people links. One area that is going from strength to strength is our maritime cooperation. Given the importance of maritime security and marine environmental protection to Australia, we are investing P3.6 billion in regional maritime programs and the Philippines is a significant beneficiary.” Collett explained in a statement.
“The marine environment is under threat from pollution, climate change and over exploitation. And it is more important than ever that we work together to protect it. We are proud to support the Philippines in its efforts to preserve the marine environment and become more climate change and disaster resilient,” she added.
Among the maritime programs Australia is conducting in the country is the funding of a number of coral restoration projects throughout the Philippines, including in Pangasinan, Verde Islands, West Philippine Sea, Palawan and Zambales.
“Australia highly values its maritime partnership with the Philippines, and we will continue to work together to protect maritime biodiversity, which is so important to the health and prosperity of our two nations,” Collett said.
Stratbase ADR Institute President Victor Andres Manhit reiterated the need for continued multilateral cooperation among like-minded states, arguing that the conservation and preservation of marine life is a shared responsibility.
“In all these endeavors, the efforts of the national and international community to secure biodiversity and promote tourism must complement and respect the Philippines’ 2016 arbitral victory,” he said.
Manhit noted that the 2016 arbitral ruling found that China’s land reclamation and construction of artificial islands had caused “irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem,” and permanently destroyed the evidence of the natural conditions of various reefs.
“These unlawful practices are being carried out until the present and continue to cause severe damage to the marine life and ecosystems that make the West Philippine Sea a critical fishing area for the country’s food and economic security,” Manhit said.
In her presentation, De La Salle University-Manila Biology Professor Dr. Ma. Carmen Ablan-Lagman underscored the importance of cooperation in ensuring the future of biodiversity in the West Philippine Sea.
“Engage with WPS stakeholders in resource monitoring and cooperation—simple things that scientists can do to put their science into the hands of the locals. And then we have to look also into the development of the community of researchers. Very glad that Australia is here because they have some of the most innovative changes,” Lagman said.
“We have to have spatially explicit plans that are open to all regarding the marine protection. We really need it. We do not want biodiversity to be out of the studies, but to have long-term buy-in and know that the benefits of these will take time because you’re talking about living organisms. We need to have very spatially explicit priority driven designs which we can see coming on for the long term,” she added.
Similarly, University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute Associate Professor Dr. Deo Florence Onda emphasized the need to invest more on science and research and development, especially in the West Philippine Sea.
“In order to protect the West Philippine Sea, we need to understand how it works and by understanding that we can come up with sustainable, long term, appropriate, management schemes and strategies to protect and intervene in its degradation,” Onda explained.
“There is a need for long-term marine scientific research and research and design framework and roadmap in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons