Senator Cynthia Villar on Sunday called for all Filipinos to have a clear commitment to protect Philippine seas.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian pushes the enactment of a law that would establish Philippine maritime zones and strengthen the country’s claim over the West Philippine Sea as affirmed by a 2016 arbitral ruling.
Villar issued the call during the International Coastal Clean-up Day or ICC celebration at the Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on Environment and Natural Resources, urged the people to strongly adhere to protecting the environment and the seas “because we and our fisherfolk all depend on the bounties of the seas.”
She also heads the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
“This year’s ICC theme, ‘Clean Seas For Healthy Fisheries,’ emphasizes the crucial connection between ocean health and the abundance of the country’s fish resources.
“Clean waters are essential for the well-being of marine life and a vibrant fishing sector,” Villar stressed.
Held annually on the third Saturday of September, the ICC represents the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health.
Volunteers from around the globe gather on beaches, coasts, rivers, other waterways, and dive sites to remove trash and document the volume and type of trash collected.
“While our fishermen strive to provide us with the ocean’s bounty, they are often the ones most impacted by the worsening state of the seas, fish habitats, and climate events such as El Niño and frequent storms,” Villar noted.
“Sadly , our seas face threats from habitat degradation and pollutants like plastics, which not only reduce the fish population but also affects the livelihood of our fisherfolk,” she added.
“We are fortunate to have our ICC here in Las Piñas – Parañaque Wetland Park, a place where we can immerse ourselves in nature while participating in the clean-up,” she noted.
She also said the wetland park was protected under RA No. 11038 or the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018, which she pushed in the Senate.
Aside from this, LPPWP was recognized as the sixth Wetland of International Importance under the International Convention for the Conservation of Wetlands o Ramsar Convention.
As member of the Ramsar Convention, it is the duty of our government to protect Ramsar sites, including LPPWP for long term protection of our natural resources.
Beyond its ecological significance, the LPPWP offers crucial benefits to the local residents of Las Piñas, Parañaque, and Bacoor. It safeguards against flooding, high tides, and storm surges. In tune with our ICC theme, it also serves as a vital livelihood source for numerous fisherfolk and the urban poor who rely on it daily.
Gatchalian issued his observation following a hearing conducted by the Senate Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones.
Such measure, once enacted, will be reinforcing the 2106 landmark arbitral victory that the Philippines secured against China, he said.
The ruling invalidated Beijing’s so-called nine-dash line claim over the West Philippine Sea.
“Taking legal cognizance of the arbitral ruling is our best defense and the loudest message we can send around the world that we are asserting our sovereignty and our sovereign rights,” the senator said.
Gatchalian recently filed Senate Bill 2394, or The Philippine Maritime Zones Act, intended to clearly define the country’s maritime zones, harmonizing domestic laws on maritime territory with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“In effect, the 2016 arbitral ruling will be enshrined in our laws and this is going to be one of the strongest signals to the world that we are asserting sovereignty and asserting our exclusive economic zone and our sovereign rights in the region,” Gatchalian emphasized.
According to him, declaring the country’s maritime zone boundaries would mean the country would be fortifying the geographical extent of its maritime domain. He further stressed that enactment of local laws would enforce the country’s compliance with UNCLOS and thus enable the country to enjoy the rights and benefits of the convention.
Under the measure proposed by Gatchalian, the country’s maritime zones will comprise the internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf in accordance with international law.
To enhance the Philippines’ national security and protect its economic and environmental interests, Gatchalian has also recently filed another bill seeking the designation of the country’s archipelagic lanes.