The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines is pushing for the protection of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) against China’s encroachment by calling on the government to declare the territory a protected area.
“We strongly resonate with the recommendation of environmental policy and governance expert Dr. Ben Malayang III, that the WPS be declared by the Philippine government as a protected seascape through existing instruments and mechanisms, and also be included into the ASEAN Heritage Park Protected Area system and the UNESCO World Heritage List,” WWF-PH said in a statement.
The nongovernmental organization highlighted the loss of the Philippines and its people in the longstanding conflict in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), with China having the upper hand in the situation.
“What if the country lost a city of 16,000 hectares, the size of Quezon City, with all the people we love, the resources and services we value now and in our collective futures? That is exactly the size of the reef area that the Philippines has lost in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) with China’s encroachment,” they said.
“Starting around 2014, China has conducted large-scale island reclamation, turning reefs into military installations and claiming these as part of their territory. The 2016 ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal, constituted by the Convention on the Laws of the Sea, denies this claim, therefore upholding the Philippines’ right to the territory,” they added.
WWF-PH also called on the government to “forge a path to holding and affirming our identity, anchored in our natural heritage, and move to protect” our stakes in the West Philippine Sea through a peaceful and diplomatic resolution.
“No armed tension in history anywhere has ever registered gains in natural or social values. We stand for peace while affirming our position to protect WPS, which is an irreplaceable part of not just our territory but who we are as a people. Declaring the West Philippine Sea a marine protected area is a definitive move in the service of life—ours and the marine environment it vitally depends on,” the WWF said further.