PROTECTING THE SEAS. Following reports of prohibited fishing activities in the eastern coastal waters of Zamboanga City, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and law enforcement groups conduct an operation on Saturday (April 17, 2021). The Philippines is coordinating with the US Embassy in Manila to strengthen its maritime awareness and improve its ability to secure its territories. (Photo courtesy of BFAR)/ctto.

MANILA – The United States Embassy in Manila said Washington is working with the Philippines to strengthen its maritime domain awareness and ability to secure its territory amid reports of illegal fishing in the West Philippines Sea.

Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law said the US government shares the country’s concerns over environmental destruction as well as the illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in its waters.

“Encountering illegal and unreported or IUU fishing remains a top priority for the US and through USAID (United States Agency for International Development), we are stepping up our partnership with the Philippines to promote sustainable fishing practices and enhance the well-being of Filipinos dependent on this critical resource,” he said in a virtual media roundtable Thursday.

“There’s no greater existential threat to the environment and livelihood of fisherfolk than the destruction of rich marine ecosystem in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Law cited a report that illegally caught fish in Philippine waters is estimated to be worth PHP63 billion a year and that about 40 percent of the fish caught in 2019 “may well have been illegally fished”.

“That why in addition to supporting environmental initiatives, the US is also working with the Philippines to strengthen the country’s maritime domain awareness and ability to secure its territory,” he said.

Meanwhile, he echoed the statement of State Secretary Antony Blinken that a “strong Philippine-US alliance is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” (PNA)