A summit will be convened for the first time in Puerto Princesa City in March to come up with a collective action to preserve the West Philippine Seascape in the South China Sea, which provides a broad range of ecosystem services that benefit Filipinos.

Western Philippines University (WPU), in its capacity as interim secretariat, will be assisted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Fish Right to assemble approximately 60 civil society organizations (CSOs) on March 1-3 to discuss the coordinated action that must be undertaken to safeguard the said seascape from the encroachment of “distant water fishing fleets.”

The USAID Fish Right noted in a statement that the advent of these fishing vessels in the West Philippine Seascape (WPS) has put the lives and livelihoods of small-scale fishermen at risk by reducing their daily catch. This is because of the growing rivalry in the fishing grounds and the decline in the area’s natural habitat.

It will bring together NGOs, people’s organizations, academic and research institutions, and businesses with stakes in addressing the urgent problems facing the WPS’s fisheries resources and developing effective strategies to address them.

The theme of the Summit is “Para sa Buhay at Kabuhayan (For Life and Livelihood): Harnessing the Voice of the CSOs to Protect WPS”.

The final day of the summit, on March 3, will feature a fireside chat between USAID Philippines, Pacific Islands, and Mongolia Mission Director Ryan Washburn and Neneh Diallo, from USAID’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Office, in which civil society leaders will share their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of safeguarding the WPS’s legacy.

The following CSO leaders will join the discussion: Atty. Gerthie Anda-Mayo of Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC); Julius Suarez of IMPL; Enrique Nunez of Conservation International Foundation, Inc.; Roberto “Ka Doduy” of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka at Mangingisda; Fausto “Ka Kuto” Alpay of Subic Commercial Fisherfolk Association, Inc.; Rosita Eguia of Calawit Developmental and Innovative Women and Tagbanuas (DIWATA); Dr. Allaine Baaco, Western Philippines University; and Nygiel Armada, USAID Fish Right Chief of Party.

Edward S. Hagedorn, representative for Palawan’s 3rd district, and sponsor of House Bill 6373, which seeks to designate the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal as a marine protected area, will give the keynote address.

The closing ceremony will end with the Ceremonial Creative Signing of WPS CSO Call to Action.