The Philippines urged trade and agricultural ministers to speed up negotiations to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in time for the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) on December 2021.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Agriculture Secretary William Dar issued the joint call to the World Trade Organization virtual meeting on fisheries subsidies held on July 15, 2021,
“The Philippines stands together with other Members who are committed to deliver an outcome in the fisheries subsidy negotiations ahead of MC12. This will only be possible if there is solid political will and diplomatic flexibility in the negotiations,” said Lopez in his statement during the meeting.
The current draft text of the agreement contains a provision that the WTO panel will not address prohibited subsidies in disputed waters.
Dar urged WTO members to reconsider the current language, saying it will provide a loophole for countries involved in maritime disputes to be exempted.
“Issues of territorial claims or delimitation of maritime boundaries or zones are of the highest concern for the Philippines but nothing must prohibit a duly constituted Panel from hearing a case,” he said.
He stressed that the flexibility and exemptions of poor and vulnerable artisanal fishers in developing and least-developed countries should not create a permanent exception to address overcapacity and overfishing.
Declining fish stocks threaten to worsen poverty and endanger coastal communities that rely on fishing. According to the WTO, based on the latest data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, fish stocks are at risk of collapsing in many parts of the world due to overexploitation.
An estimated 34 percent of global stocks are overfished compared with 10 percent in 1974, reflecting a pace of exploitation where the fish population cannot replenish itself.