Philippines considering making Pag-asa Island protected area
MANILA, Philippines – Pag-asa Island, an island in the middle of a diplomatic row between the Philippines and China, may one day become a "marine protected area" under Philippine laws.
The country's National Security Council (NSC) announced on Wednesday, April 24, that the Duterte government is "looking into the possibility of declaring Pag-asa Island and Eastern Kalayaan as Marine Protected Areas."
"With an MPA in place, we aim to institutionalize and promote efforts towards environmental and marine biodiversity protection within the resource-rich West Philippine Sea," reads a statement by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Duterte gov't considering declaring Pag-asa Island a marine protected area after reports of 'illegal' presence of Chinese vessels near it, says National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/VxCBp1RBOu— Pia Ranada (@piaranada) April 24, 2019
A marine protected area or MPA is a marine feature subject to special regulations given its value as a natural resource, biodiversity hotspot, or as a habitat of endangered species.
Regulations like limited access to the area and special funding for its protection go with MPA status.
Back in 2016, Duterte wanted Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) to be declared a marine reserve, which would ban any fishing in the area, also with the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.
Pag-asa Island is inhabited by soldiers and a community of around a hundred civilians.
The NSC may recommend that the presence of the Chinese ships near the island be discussed during President Rodrigo Duterte's upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, Apri 25.
"This includes taking this matter possibly to the scheduled bilateral meeting between President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping," said Esperon.
Esperon echoed the Department of Foreign Affairs in calling the presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island as "illegal" and a "clear violation of [the Philippines'] sovereign rights."
He also described the collection of giant clams "taklobos" by Chinese fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as "harmful exploitation" of natural resources that "affects not only the biodiversity of the area, but the communities surrounding it." – Rappler.com