The Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the United States Embassy in the Philippines hosted a three-day virtual conference on developing a local government unit alliance for food security in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) region from November 17 to 19.
The conference, held with support from the US Department of the Interior and local nongovernmental organization Tanggol Kalikasan, convened stakeholders and subject matter experts to discuss how local government units can manage and protect the WPS to sustain and maximize food production, according to a press release issued by the US Embassy on Friday.
Food security is a critical worldwide problem, and participants devised a local action plan to solve it, it said in the statement.
The conference drew more than 500 participants from the provinces of Batanes, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Zambales, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, and Palawan.
Presenters included experts from the Philippine Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, U.S. Department of the Interior-International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP), and various academic, civil society, and think-tank organizations.
INL Director Kelia Cummins emphasized that food security is an increasingly serious and alarming global issue requiring immediate attention and mitigation measures. “Yes, challenges exist,” she said, “but you have the power, as evidenced by your participation here today, and the commitment to harness and enjoy your natural and marine resources.”
DILG Assistant Secretary Manuel Felix noted that 13.6 percent of Filipinos, or 3.4 million families, experience involuntary hunger due to lack of food, based on a June 2021 Social Weather Stations survey. “We do not wait until WPS territorial issues are resolved [to take action] as so many are affected, and so many are largely dependent on the West Philippine Sea’s substantial marine resources,” Felix said.
Atty. Asis Perez, Tanggol Kalikasan senior legal adviser, emphasized that the country has a “duty to enjoy and protect resources to ensure future generations can benefit from them.”
This conference is part of a two-year, $40.2-million INL project with implementing partners U.S. DOI-ITAP and Tanggol Kalikasan. The project helped establish institutes of environmental governance at five state universities in the WPS region to provide capacity-building programs on environmental governance and law enforcement with a special focus on countering wildlife trafficking, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
Globally, INL supports programs and activities designed to strengthen the justice sector and promote rule of law and good governance.