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Blue Economy Bill approved by House committee

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

The House committee on Economic Affairs yesterday approved the proposed Blue Economy Act, authored by Negros Occidental Third District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, that seeks to establish a framework to sustainably develop, manage, and protect the Philippines’ marine and water resources.

Benitez chairs the Technical Working Group that consolidated House Bills 69, or the proposed Blue Economy bill, and related House bills number 8669, 8708, 8720, 8816, 8893 and 8971, while Negros Occidental First District Rep. Gerardo Valmayor serves as the chairman of the Economic Affairs committee.

The consolidated, still unnumbered House bill, is an Act establishing a framework for blue economy, promoting stewardship and sustainable development of coastal and marine ecosystems and resources, reorganizing and renaming the National Coast Watch System as the national Maritime Monitoring System.

“One of the motivations for the bill is a realization that 88 percent of our national territory is actually marine and that we are in need of a whole government approach to ensure that we regulate maritime activities and mitigate or minimize the impact to the environment and maximize the social benefit for our coastal communities which comprise 60 percent of our people,” Benitez stressed during a recent committee hearing.

He stressed the importance of the sustainable development and management of the country’s maritime industries for the benefit of future generations of Filipinos.

“We are, in fact, a powerhouse of (the) maritime industry in many aspects. And I think it is high-time for the country to create an organized policy framework that can handle the diverse and wide range of economic, social, historical, and cultural activities that we depend our national waters for,” Benitez added.

In his bill’s explanatory note, Benitez highlighted the “vast potential” of the country as a blue economy because it is “the world’s second largest archipelagic state.”

“Our maritime domains, including our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), have a total area of 2.2 million sq. km. and compose 88 percent of our national territory. The Filipino is essentially a creature of the sea, descended from master maritime navigators. Almost 60 percent of our people live in coastal communities; 315 of our municipalities and 25 of our cities are coastal,” the explanatory note said.

However, the lawmaker lamented that Filipinos’ relationship with the sea “is increasingly diminished by our abuse and excess,” as well as by overexploitation and pollution.

“This bill consolidates all interventions in a single framework that promotes a whole-of-nation approach to sustainably develop, manage, protect and preserve our marine and coastal resources. This bill enshrines and shines new light on the Philippines as the “pearl of the orient sea,” it added.

The framework for a blue economy would, among others, review existing policies, adhere to international maritime laws, analyze current and emerging trends, prioritize sustainable ocean-based and ocean-related economic activities, promote ocean literacy, and enhance the capabilities of the military to enforce laws and protect marine wealth.*

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