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Blue economy to further address WPS issue 

PURSUING a blue economy in the country is expected to not just boost economic growth but also address the issues hounding the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) said the concept of the blue economy will provide a broader framework for the country.

Blue economy refers to the integrated, holistic, cross-sectoral and cross-stakeholder approach for the sustainable, resilient and inclusive use, governance, management and conservation of oceans, seas, marine and coastal resources and ecosystems for economic growth.

The Blue Economy Bill which is included in the administration’s priority legislative agenda aims to promote stewardship and sustainable development of marine wealth within the maritime domains of the Philippines, including its exclusive economic zone.

PRRM president Edicio dela Torre argued that the country’s land area is merely 300,000 square kilometers while the exclusive economic zone stretches across 2.2 million square kilometers.

“Therefore, we need not delve into topics like global trade and our seafarers when discussing the concept of the blue economy. The concept of a blue economy addresses the entire issue,” dela Torre said.

The bill aims to institutionalize the crafting of a comprehensive framework for the sustainable development of marine and coastal resources and strengthen inter-agency, cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder coordination.

It will also promote cross-sector engagement, putting value into the local and indigenous knowledge systems of small fisherfolk.

“Sustainability will not be achieved if it doesn’t also enhance the income and livelihood of people. We should transcend what may seem abstract, focusing not just on rights but also on livelihood—the source of life and sustenance for our citizens,” dela Torre said.

He added that there are specific species in the West Philippine Sea or in the exclusive economic zone that could potentially be special, medicinal, or pharmaceutical substances.

“The blue economy is so vast that if you can’t defend the West Philippine Sea, you can’t develop it,” dela Torre said.

“The hot issue now is the West Philippine Sea. If we can’t even assert and develop what has been internationally recognized as ours, others will say, ‘If you can’t even take care of the small ones, how much more the larger ones?” he said.

Dela Torre maintained that if the government places the West Philippine Sea within the context of the blue economy, it assumes much greater importance. He noted that this will not just be about geopolitics but more so on economic development.

Further, PRRM maintained that a specific day to address the WPS issue is welcome.

To recall, it was July 12, 2016, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines, stating that the country has sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the WPS.

Dela Torre said a special day that will have more discussions and forums is important to remind Filipinos of its relevance.

“It’s like with couples. You love one another, you declare every day. But you must have a special day so that on that day, there’s a special significance, a special burst of energy, and maybe a special renewal of commitment,” dela Torre said.

Moreover, PRRM is also backing the proposal to establish a Center for West Philippine Sea Studies that would dig deeper and disseminate information on the WPS.

According to dela Torre, the center should not just be within the Department of Foreign Affairs but should be linked with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.

This as the regular education of the Filipino youth should encompass an understanding of the issue.

“We need extensive discussions, studies, debates, and a deepening of understanding so that we cannot just fully grasp but also appreciate it,” dela Torre said.

He added that when it comes to WPS, the level of understanding is still insufficient, not only among Filipino citizens but even within the government.

“Even if the policy is good and there’s a budget for it, without a dedicated agency and dedicated personnel focusing on it, it will be overlooked,” dela Torre said.


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