The National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) reiterates its call to the government to develop the country’s “Blue Economy” during the Science Policy and Information Forum 2019: The Philippine Blue Economy last January 28, 2019.
The Forum is a part of the NAST PHL’s campaign to promote the development of the blue economy and calls on policymakers to include the blue economy agenda in their decision-making.
Emphasizing the potential of the blue economy for the country’s progress, NAST PHL President Academician Rhodora Azanza in her welcome remarks explained that there is a need to further expand the marine and aquatic related industries and resources in the Philippines. “It is time to awaken this sleeping giant that is the Philippine blue economy,” Azanza said.
Ms. Jane Desiree Andal of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) added that a study of Azanza together with NEDA Director-General Ernesto Pernia and other marine experts revealed that a conservative valuation of the country’s blue economy is at a whopping P900-B. Andal added that this could be a potential game-changer in the country’s economic development.
Participants of the Forum recognized the fragmented approach, policies, and research directions on the blue economy which they said can be best addressed through the creation of a separate Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
It can be recalled that NAST PHL, through its annual scientific meetings, has called for the government to create a separate department that will focus on the marine and ocean affairs of the country.
Also, one of President Duterte’s campaign promises was to create a separate Department of Fisheries, acknowledging “that the fishery sector has distinct problems and issues apart from land-based farming.”
At least 10 bills on the creation of a Department of Fisheries have been pending at the House of Representatives. Five counterpart bills have also been pending in the Senate.PH as a maritime nation
The Forum featured Career Scientist Dr. Eusebio Z. Dizon of the National Museum who lectured on archaeological evidences of the country’s history as a maritime nation. He reiterated that the Philippines was heavily engaged in maritime trade even during the precolonial era.
“We have a rich history as a maritime nation which indicates our solid background of maritime culture,” Dizon stated. Dizon also showed various pictures of materials such as porcelain plates, dishes, and even jewelries that were found through explorations on ship wreckages.
Capt. Herbert Catapang of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) Hydrography Branch followed this up by discussing the country’s maritime territories and boundaries. Catapang pointed out that the country’s maritime territories are guided by important laws and treaties which includes the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), in the midst of the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Caring for marine resources
With the rapid urbanization and development in the country, experts suggest that it should not jeopardize marine resources conservation and protection. Ms. Desiree Eve Maaño of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) zeroed in on the importance of taking care of the country’s aquatic and marine resources.
“We can’t risk neglecting our marine resources. We need to be more aggressive in protecting our seas, oceans, and marine biodiversity,” Maaño told the participants.Challenges ahead
The lecturers recognized many challenges facing the country’s blue economy which includes the scant support for research and development, low farm mechanization, and ageing workforce. Maaño, who serves as the BMB focal person on Philippine Rise and West Philippine Sea coordination meetings, added that laws and regulations protecting the marine areas should be aggressively implemented.
Various recommendations were developed from the Forum which included a call for academic institutions to actively provide sound policy advice on the blue economy. It also called on agencies to more aggressively disseminate evidence-based information on blue economy development.Blue Economy campaign
Around 70-80 representatives from various government agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), private entities, companies, colleges and universities, and media outlets participated in the event which culminated in a call to communicate the issue of blue economy to the public.
A similar forum was conducted last November 2018 that focused on the galunggong and tilapia industries. Prominent government officials, particularly Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director USec. Eduardo Gongona, graced the previous forum.
NAST PHL stated that another forum on the blue economy will be conducted in February and will discuss other aspects such as shipping, maritime industries, and maritime policies.
The Forum was organized by the NAST PHL, an attached agency to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) mandated by law (E. O. 818, Series of 1982) to advise the President and the Cabinet on matters related to science and technology.