Press Release
July 9, 2015

PH to lose P200 M a day in fish catch if China puts up 'no fishing' sign in WPH

If the world will allow China to put up a "no fishing" sign around the Great Wall of Sand it is aggressively building in the West Philippine Sea, it will "starve" Filipinos of a staple in their diet - fish, Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

"It will hit us where it hurts most - our stomach," Recto said.

"There lies the greatest danger of Chinese incursion in our territory. It's a formula for starvation. More than a national security question, it involves food security," he said.

"This is the reason why, regardless of our politics, whoever our bet for 2016 is, we should unite in support of our Philippine delegation to The Hague," Recto said.

"Because when China succeeds - through might, not right - in making the West Philippine Sea its exclusive fishpond, it will not only lead to the disappearance of a large chunk of space from our territory, but also fish from our table," Recto said.

"So this is not just a battle about cartography but about calories. What we're stopping is a Made-in-China food shortage," the Senate President Pro-Tempore said.

Recto said that annual per capita consumption of fish and marine products in the Philippines is about 36 kilos.

"Sa galunggong bawat Pinoy mga tatlong kilo isang taon ang nakakain. Sa tulingan, mga 2 kilo bawat isa sa atin. Sa daing, apat na kilo bawat Pinoy ang konsumo. Pati bagoong, isang kilo bawat taon ang sinasawsawan, hinihigop ng kada Pinoy," Recto said.

Of the 4.705 million metric tons (MT) of fish caught in 2013, commercial fishers contributed 1.067 million MT, while municipal fishermen added 1.264 million MT. The rest, or 2.374 million MT, was raised through aquaculture.

By one estimate, more than three-fourths of total commercial and municipal fishing production came from the rich fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.

"Iyang sardinas natin sa lata, karamihan galing doon," he said.

The value of what commercial and municipal fishermen produced in 2013 was about P150 billion.

"Put another way, it is a P410-million a day industry. Ipagpalagay mo na lang na kalahati ay galing sa West Philippine Sea, eh di P200 milyon ang mawawala sa atin araw-araw pag naglagay ang China ng 'Do not enter' sign sa Spratlys, sa Baja de Masinloc. Pati dagat sa tapat ng Ilocos inaangkin na rin nila," Recto said.

A House of Representatives think-tank estimated that 20-25 percent of all the country's annual fish catch come from the waters west of Palawan and Luzon's western seaboard, two areas now embraced by the Chinese nine-dash line map.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the eminent persons in the country's powerhouse delegation to The Hague hearing, in countless lectures, has warned against the disastrous effect of losing our fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.

"If we lose 80% of our Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea, that means we lose 80% of the fish we catch annually in the South China Sea," Carpio said in a recent interview by Rappler.

Recto described the West Philippine Sea as "a nursery, breeding ground" of our fish.

"So iyan ang maternity ward, parang Fabella Hospital ng ating mga isda. Kahit yung ibang nahuhuli sa ibang lugar, kung may birth certificate sila, ang ilalagay doon ay West Philippine Sea," Recto said.

He said China's push into Philippine water was motivated in part to secure rich fishing grounds that will satiate Chinese appetite for marine products.

"It's a market of 1.360 billion people, each eating 31 kilos of fish each year," he said.

"Eh ang West Philippine Sea ay kasama sa Coral Triangle, one of richest fishing grounds in the world, kaya sino ba naman ang hindi maeenganyo," Recto said.

Encompassing 5.7 million square kilometers of ocean waters in six countries, the Coral Triangle supports the sustenance of 120 million people who earn $6 billion a year in fishery exports and tourism.

The Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration is presently hearing the Philippines' complaint against China's excessive territorial claims at the Peace Palace at The Hague, Netherlands.

In all, Philippine fisheries produced P244 billion worth of fish in 2013 - P93.7 billion from aquaculture, P80.9 billion from municipal fishermen, P69.9 billion from commercial fishers - or about 2 percent of the GDP.

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