Sun. Jun 20th, 2021

Archipelagic and Maritime Philippines: A case study on Integrated Coastal Zone Management

(Third and Final of a Series of 3)

Platform for a Department of Fisheries

Mitigating Political Disasters

Awareness alarm call on “political disasters.” (Part 2)

By Albert A. Encomienda

Conflicts between or among States arising from maritime or land border issues, what are labeled here as “political disasters,” and creating livelihood and other socio-economic concerns among inhabitants of those States, are not new and happen all over the world. In many instances, States concerned allow these issues to remain dormant for the sake of peace; in the words of former Premier Deng Xiaoping of China, to “let sleeping dogs lie.” In other cases, a weaker Party would quietly lick wounds but harbor irredentist sentiments; a case in point is the Sabah question.

Another instance in the South China Sea, similar to the situation in the western coast of Region III, Vietnamese fisherfolk are prevented from fishing in the Paracels archipelago (Manila Bulletin, 11-September-2014, p.8 entitled: “Vietnam accuses China of beating fishermen”).

Another long-running marine resources quarrel in Asia is that between India and Pakistan in the border between Sindh Province (Pakistan) and the State of Gujarat (India). Invariably these dormant border issues are “awakened” with the discovery of straddling resources, or sharing or allocation issues arise.

Border issues, however, have always been shown to have two facets; with opportunity as the obverse side of danger. In this situation, contending States would either take a constructive approach and agree to jointly manage and share resources, or resort to war.

In the case of the South China Sea an international framework for cooperation in joint management and sharing of marine resources is contained in UNCLOS Part IX. This is not in the context of a border dispute but in the effective governance of enclosed and semi-enclosed seas and sharing of its marine resources among riparian States.

The obligation to cooperate is already present and only needs implementation. Instituting joint cooperation for the management of marine resources that is exhorted under the UNCLOS for enclosed/semi-enclosed seas would, in the jurisdictional conflict situation of the South China Sea, could also assume the character of “provisional measures” pending resolution of jurisdictional issues.

It would be an interim mode of addressing jurisdictional questions but would, at the same time, serve as a durable and permanent ocean governance arrangement, which are among obligations of States Parties under the UNCLOS.

Furthermore, these provisional or interim measures can create a benign atmosphere among Parties that could facilitate resolution of the territorial issues.

An interesting localized ICZM model and template.

Artisanal fisheries as a livelihood and health concern all over the Philippines has recently been given attention in the wake of the Yolanda super-typhoon in the central Visayas region (Regions VII and VIII) as a natural disaster.

It has been highlighted in the Zambales and Pangasinan provinces (Region III) on account of the South China Sea maritime disputes situation. In the former instance, the problem is the destruction of the means of livelihood i.e., fishing bancas. In the latter, the problem is the loss of fishing grounds i.e., the Panatag/Scarborough Shoal.

In both instances, however, another concern would surface i.e., depletion of fish stocks.

The two possible threats to health and livelihood of coastal communities due to fisheries depletion are met in Region III. This is because Region III has an agro-fishery corridor from the western coast of Luzon (Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan) to the eastern coast (Aurora) that makes Region III vulnerable and exposed to the twin disasters mentioned earlier: an ongoing “political disaster” that is the South China Sea conflict situation in its western coast; and Aurora in the eastern coast always vulnerable and exposed to risks of Yolanda-type disasters being in tropical typhoon range and landfall.

Moreover, in the two instances of fisheries depletion, the solution rests in a common approach through conservation in the setting of an ICZM scheme. Region III is an ideal start-up location for developing a template for ICZM appropriate and most suited for archipelagic Philippines.

A well-designed and implemented RDC-III agro-fisheries ICZM program could be the launch project for the country’s Blue Economy, which could serve as a “two in one” model for the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific coastal communities.

The problem of artisanal fishing affecting coastal communities in Regions VII and VIII (Philippines) in the aftermath of Yolanda and Region III on account of “political disasters” can be conveyed in a transmuted graphic scenario for all over the country, thus: imagine a situation of generally perfect weather conditions for fishing, and artisanal fishermen are best equipped in regard to fishing boats and fishing tools and techniques. 

But there is no fish to catch because of crashed fisheries resources. This would be a creeping disaster worse than Yolanda, and due in part to over-capitalization, or an over-capacity build-back scheme as was also seen resulting in the Aceh, Phuket and Sri Lanka tsunami of 2004, with its disastrous affect on a wider coastal fisheries scale.

This would show that, in this modern day and age, it is not enough to teach a person “how to fish” in order to survive; it is necessary to impart the commitment for implementation of sustainable management and conservation of marine resources in order to feed the population for the future.

Replacement fishing boats would be the easy part if the disaster is not about crashed or severely depleted fisheries. Indeed, a current fisheries concern worldwide is “too many fishing boats chasing too few fish.”

The support infrastructure for fisheries, e.g., landing sites, refrigeration facilities, and local fisheries markets; and agriculture, such as rice and vegetable and coconut crops can be restored in time, but livelihoods of millions depend on it being addressed in a sustainable and well planned manner, while assuming responsibility for the immediate livelihoods of those affected.

The solution that would serve the livelihood concerns of coastal communities in Region III is to rebuild fish stocks and institute ICZM.

This recourse is necessary whether the political situation in Panatag/Scarborough Shoal finds resolution or not. There is no easy and fast solution but immediate steps can be taken towards rebuilding and conservation of the marine environment and resources.

The BFAR implicitly shall validate the observation concerning depletion of coastal fisheries resources in Zambales/Pangasinan provinces. With the assistance of the Philippine Navy (PN) and commercial fishers, the DA/BFAR is installing two arrays of fish aggregating devices (which BFAR Region III also calls artificial reefs) in the coasts of 3 towns in Pangasinan – one set far offshore for commercial fishers, and another set closer to shore for artisanal fishers.

(Philippine Daily Inquirer dated 25-May-2013, “China cordon drives fishers inland,” p. A12; and Philippine Daily Inquirer dated 25-May-2012, “Gov’t to go after PH fishermen but not China’s,” p. A17).

This may have been intended as a “quick fix” solution but definitely never constructive, and even destructive in the longer term. Fish-aggregating devices is considered an unsound fisheries management tool.

Initiating ICZM as an ASEAN Vision 2025 Social-Cultural Broad Characteristic.

Detailed aspects in an ICZM project depends on accompanying circumstances in each target territory. Any project with the breadth and magnitude, in a unique archipelago configuration and strategic location as in the Philippines, must necessarily involve a building-block capacity-building approach that must be prioritized and distributed over an immediate and near term, and the medium and long term.

A good model in developing a suitable project program would be that of New Zealand which is also an archipelagic nation. Moreover, the Government of New Zealand, which is an ASEAN Dialogue partner, had supported the ICRMP since 1997 through the New Zealand Agency for International Aid (NZAid).

A first step would be to undertake a commissioned study with the collaboration of international experts and institutions to put together a design concept and organizational structure, and implementation steps with time frames.

Conclusion.

A final point for a coherent and sustainable fisheries and ocean governance program in a countrywide scale is that a well-developed and properly organized and implemented national program can contribute significantly towards socio-economic resilience for the country as a whole, and contribute substantially towards food security.

Moreover, as an inherently shared resource in the setting of the seas of Southeast Asia as enclosed/semi-enclosed seas, promoting cooperation and joint management among regional States concerned as under UNCLOS Part IX, would expectedly conduce towards regional peace and harmony.

A necessary infrastructure component of the project ultimately to project nationwide and the maritime Southeast Asia region would be a durable high technology “mission control” – type central infrastructure for Monitoring, Control and Surveillance system (MCS).

This would be closely linked to an oceanographic institute and fisheries training centers as the monitoring and research base for the project now and in the future, with access to the public domain especially to government agencies and educational institutions at all levels. It would maximize/optimize its practical utility and educational/awareness value.

The resulting support cluster would then serve as the central policy/program planning institute and educational/training facility for ocean studies and fisheries schools; and conceptually be a central tool for the region in its shared efforts to address ocean governance concerns. This technology-infrastructure science support cluster guarantees the project sustainability.

Finally, a region-wide ICZM program for the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific coastal communities can fall under any of the 3 broad characteristics under ASEAN Vision 2025 (political-security, economic, and socio-cultural).

It is suggested that the program be placed under the Socio-Cultural pillar, with hashtag #AEC 2015 Regional Ocean Governance Integration and Consolidation, and connectivity. (iam/sovereignph.com)

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