By Estrella Z. Gallardo
The blue economy goes beyond viewing the ocean economy solely as a mechanism for economic growth. In the ‘business-as-usual’ model large scale industrial nations have seen the development of their ocean economies through the exploitation of maritime and marine resources – for example through shipping, commercial fishing, and the oil gas, minerals and mining industries – often without a view to the effects of their activities have on the future health or productivity of those same resources.
The blue economy is not just about market opportunities; It also provides for the protection and development of more intangible ‘blue’ resources such as traditional ways of life, carbon sequestration, and coastal resilience to help vulnerable states mitigate the often devastating effects of climate change.
Fast facts about the blue economy:
- The worldwide ocean economy is valued at around US$ 1.5 trillion per year.
- Eighty percent of global trade by volume is carried by sea.
- 350 million jobs worldwide are linked to fisheries.
- By 2025 it is estimated that 34% of crude oil production will come from offshore fields.
- Agriculture is the fastest growing food sector and provides about 50% of fish for human consumption.
In the Science Policy and Information Forum 2019: The Philippine Blue Economy last January 28, 2019, the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) once again calls to the government to develop the country’s “Blue Economy”.
The Forum is a part of the NAST PHL’s campaign to promote the development of the blue economy and calls on policy makers to include the blue economy agenda in their decision-making.
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. “Ii is time to awaken this sleeping giant that is the Philippine blue economy,” Azanza said.
According to Ma. Jane Desiree Andal of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), a study of Azanza together with NEDA Director-General Ernesto Permia and other marine experts revealed that a conservative valuation of the country’s blue economy is a whooping P 900B, that could be a potential game-of-change in the country’s economic development, Independent Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The fragmented approach, policies and research directions on the blue economy recognized by the participants of the Forum, can be best addressed through the creation of a separate Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
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.
President Duterte acknowledging that the fishery sector has distinct problems and issues apart from land-based farming, during his campaign has also promised to create a separate Department of Fisheries.
At least there are 10 bills on the creation of a Department of Fisheries pending at the House of Representatives. Five counter bills are also pending in the Senate PH as a maritime nation.
Career Scientist Dr. Eusebio Z. Dizon of the National Museum who lectured on archeological evidence of the country’s history as a marine nation reiterated that the Philippines was heavily engaged in maritime trade even during the precolonial era.
Dizon also showed various pictures of materials such as porcelain plates, dishes, and even jewelries that were found through exploration on ship wreckage, stating, “We have a rich history as a maritime nation which indicates our solid background of maritime culture”.
This was followed up by Capatain Herbert Catapang of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (MAMPRIA) Hydrography Branch by discussing the country’s maritime territories and boundaries. Catapang pointed out that the country’s maritime territories are guided by important law and treaties which include the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) in the midst of the territorial dispute on the West Philippine Sea.
Experts suggest that with the rapid urbanization and development in the country, maritime resources conservation and protection should not be jeopardized. 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. Maaño told the participants, “We can’t risk neglecting our marine resources. We need to be more aggressive in protecting our seas, oceans, and marine biodiversity.”
Many challenges facing the country’s blue economy were recognized by the lectures like the scant support for research and development, low farm mechanization, and aging workforce, Maaño, added that laws and regulations protecting the marine areas should be aggressively implemented. Maaño serves as the BMB focal person on Philippine Rise and West Philippine Sea coordinating meetings.
From the forum various recommendations were developed which included a call for academic institutions to activity provide sound policy advice on the blue economy.
The Forum which culminated in a call to communicate the issue of blue economy to the public was participated in by around 70-80 representatives from various government agencies, non-government organizations (NGO’S), private entities, companies, colleges and universities, and media outlets. (MegaManila Science Journalists)