The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) assured local government units (LGUs) of its commitment to conserving marine resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to guarantee the country’s food supply drawn from its municipal waters.
DILG Assistant Secretary Manuel Felix said this during the opening of a virtual three-day conference organized by Tanggol Kalikasan, Inc. and its partner agencies, including the Western Philippines University (WPU), on November 17, 2021.
The LGUs of nine provinces along the WPS area, including Batanes, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, and Palawan, participated in the virtual event dubbed “Building Alliance for Food Security in the West Philippine Sea Area: A Conference of Local Governments.”
While Felix reassured LGUs of the agency’s assistance for resource management activities in the WPS, he also stressed the need “to synergize the voice of LGUs in safeguarding the WPS” to ensure that Filipinos have food on their tables and fisherfolks can continue to make a living in the area.
Meanwhile, director Kelia Cummins of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (BINLEA) of the U.S. Department of State-U.S. Embassy Manila emphasized the importance of strengthening the rule of law to mitigate threats in the WPS, while senior project manager Peter Fricke of the U.S. Department of Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program emphasized the importance of sharing information and actionable plans in the WPS.
“We may have all the rights and ownership over our claimed territory, but in those rights that we have, emanate our duty and responsibility to protect it for the future generation,” said, on the other hand, Atty. Asis Perez, senior legal adviser of Tanggol Kalikasan, on the state of the WPS environment and its opportunity for growth.
Carmela Arca, the focal person for Fisheries Compliance Audit of BGLS-DIL, stated that technical and capacity assistance on coastal resource management and municipal waters zoning should be readily available to LGUs in order to capacitate them and help them benefit from the aquatic resources in their waters and in the WPS.
The three-day event was concluded with the drafting of the LGUs’ action plans that aim to address the challenges identified in the WPS area.