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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Australia helping restore WPS coral reefs

Australia is helping the Philippines restore the coral reefs in some parts of the West Philippine Sea.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP WESCOM) and the Australian Embassy in the Philippines discussed the joint coral reef restoration projects to protect the marine environment during a forum on Wednesday.

The forum was entitled “Implementing a Comprehensive Philippine Maritime Framework to Advance the Rule of Law” and organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute.

The partnership comes amid various activities that have threatened the marine environment in the waters, Acting Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Moya Collett revealed, as she showed videos of joint coral reef projects in the waters off Zambales and Palawan provinces.

Collett said such videos make her “proud and excited about the amazing work we continue to pursue together with the Philippines to protect our most precious marine environment.”

Australia is helping the Philippines preserve the marine environment off Zambales waters by assisting the Mead Foundation, the Southern Cross University, and the University of the Philippines Marine Environmental and Resource Foundation.

They combine various coral restoration methods to maximize the health of the marine ecosystems.

In Palawan, the Australian Institute of Marine Science is helping the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development with its reef monitoring by integrating an easy-to-use reef monitoring device the Australian team developed into its routine, the diplomat said.

“Both of our countries are committed to promoting an open, secure, and prosperous region where international law and sovereignty are respected. We are also committed to protecting the marine environment which is critical to supporting the lives and livelihoods of our two peoples,” Collett said.

AFP WESCOM Commander Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos welcomed Australia’s aid, as the Armed Forces are on the frontline of protecting the country’s territorial waters and marine environment.

Carlos said this is the “perfect opportunity” for Manila to work with Canberra, as he noted the High Seas Treaty recently signed by the Philippines and Australia, among other countries, and the reported changes in the quality of marine life in the West Philippine Sea.

“After the AFP reports changes in the quality of marine life in our areas of responsibility, we would very much like to help our experts do their tasks of studying, researching, and finding ways to preserve and protect marine biodiversity,” he said.

“We need experts from the Bureau of Fisheries and perhaps the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), the UP Marine Science Institute, and other similar institutions,” Carlos said.

He said working with other countries, such as Australia, was needed because it “would be wise to put all of our expertise together to find solutions to this very grave problem of marine life destruction and degradation.”

Stratbase ADR Institute President Dindo Manhit lauded Australia’s aid, saying that maritime cooperation with like-minded states is “reassuring” for the Philippines amid the continued threats in its maritime domain.

“Fortunately, amid the traditional, non-traditional, and evolving risks that are present in the region, like-minded states are finding the opportunity to work more closely together, driven by their shared values and commitment to the rule of law,” he said.

“The Philippines is right in the middle of these alliances and partnerships – a reassuring place to be, given the difficulties now besetting the region,” Manhit said.

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