June 18, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Hagedorn bill on West PH Sea protection gains ground

By Justine Rich Talusan

A MEASURE filed by Palawan Rep. Edward Hagedorn in the House of Representatives about environmental protection and preservation of the West Philippine Sea has gained support from his fellow lawmakers and some key government agencies.

House Bill No. 6373 aims to declare all low-tide elevations and high-tide features, and an area of three nautical miles around the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal, as a Marine Protected Area.

Hagedorn thanked House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez for prioritizing the hearing of HB 6373.
This amid heightened tensions in the West Philippine Sea, wherein a Chinese coast guard blocked a Filipino fishing vessel.

The Palawan solon has met with officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Department of National Defense (DND).

Congressman and evangelical leader Eddie Villanueva also expressed his full support for the bill, calling it an “important and timely initiative that could provide a common ground and shared interest for all contending states.”

“I thank the DENR, DILG, DND, and all the other experts who have engaged me in discussion and have shown genuine interest in protecting our environment. The discussions made during the meetings are positive and we have found that our views are aligned,” Hagedorn said.

“The invaluable insights of these government officials will all help in shaping the bill into something that will strengthen the protection and preservation of the atolls, coral reefs, and other vital marine resources in the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal. Indeed, this is a cause that we should unite for,” he added.

The bill, which is set to be heard on January 25, cited Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 and the Arbitral Ruling in seeking to declare the said areas as a Marine Protected Area.

“A hectare, or about 2.5 acres, of reef can produce a potential value of approximately US $350,000 a year. The coral reefs in the Spratlys, which serve as the breeding ground of fish in the South China Sea, comprise 34 percent of the world’s total coral reefs, despite the South China Sea occupying only 2.5 percent of world’s total ocean and sea surface,” it read.

“As such, the South China Sea is one of the richest marine areas in the world , which is the home to diverse marine ecosystems with over 3,000 species of fish and 600 species of coral reef,” it added.