Hagedorn seeks to declare parts of Scarborough, Kalayaan as ‘marine protected areas’
Palawan Rep. Edward Hagedorn has filed a bill to declare all low-tide elevations and high-tide features, and an area of three nautical miles around the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal as a Marine Protected Area.
Through House Bill No. 6373, the solon wants to strengthen the protection and preservation of the atolls, coral reefs, and other vital marine resources in the said area.
Hagedorn said the protection of the environment and the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea should also be prioritized by the Philippines.
“We must learn to cooperate as one region in the protection of our natural resources while we settle the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea. The protection of the rich marine resources and environment of the West Philippine Sea is a shared interest and responsibility of all adjoining states around the South China Sea which should be a guiding policy for all of us in the region,” he said.
“We all stand to gain or to lose depending on the outcome of our collective actions while we settle our territorial disputes. Through this bill, we hope for the Philippines to help initiate and spark this regional cooperation,” he added.
The bill cited Republic Act No. 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 and the Arbitral Ruling in seeking to declare the said areas as a Marine Protected Area.
The explanatory note mentioned how some activities by surrounding states borne out of territorial disputes–like overfishing, poaching, and large-scale ocean filling or reclamation, among others–led to significant environmental degradation in the area.