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Achieving the objectives of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month

Achieving the objectives of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month
Atty. Brenda V. Pimentel September 8, 2021

THE devastation caused by cyclone Ida in the United States confirms the wrath of nature spares no one, no country, regardless of the level of affluence. The extent of damage and number of casualties makes many reprise the same sentiments as before: climate change has started to settle the score against man's continuous neglect of the environment.

The Philippines was visited by typhoons in recent months and this archipelago recorded the impact on the economy with agriculture receiving the brunt of the onslaughts. The number of casualties is not as high as those during the super cyclones Yolanda and Ondoy, still, despite claims of preparedness to keep people safe and dry, the destructive impact of the downpour and floods could be felt for a long time.

Our planet is sick, the ocean is sick! This is a strong statement that resonates across the globe, yet, this issue remains within the confines of conferences and fora where plans and programs are debated and discussed. In many maritime related-activities, protection of the marine environment is a favorite theme. How the plans and programmers drawn up during these events translate into concrete outcomes are not easily discernible.

The Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANAMO) has for this year's theme "Our seas, our livelihood, our heritage: connecting lives and nations". Once again, this month brings to the fore the importance of the oceans and seas; saving the seas, recovering the health of the oceans should be a relevant secondary theme. How we are coping with the demands to save our seas is a question that goes beyond rhetoric.

Giving effect to marine environment protection conventions, how are we coping?

This archipelago has ratified several conventions aimed at protecting the marine environment such as the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ship (MARPOL), the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation, 1990 (OPRC), Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992 (CLC) and the FUND Convention, 1992. The most recent conventions ratified by the Philippines are the Anti-Fouling Systems (AFS) and the Ballast Water Management Convention. Except for the CLC and the Fund conventions, the enabling legislation for the rest is still pending in Congress.

MARPOL considered one of the pillars of the regulatory framework of shipping provides a comprehensive set of technical standards and guidelines which prevent the discharge of various types of pollutants. A record twenty (20) years after the Philippines acceded to MARPOL in 2001, the enabling legislation to implement the convention remains in the backburner of Congress. It is not that shipping is the primary source of marine pollution, rather it is to draw ships out from the list of "polluters" of the seas.

Enhancing awareness of the archipelagic and maritime attributes of the Philippines is about informing the citizens of how the seas and the maritime industry permeates their lives and hopefully stir them towards protecting the sea. More importantly, it is also to remind those in the government of the State Policy as enunciated in the Constitution to "protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology" upon which is anchored the commitment to subscribe and give effect to conventions which promote the protection of the marine environment.

Optimizing the benefits generated from the seas is this archipelago's aspiration. The living and non-living resources which could be extracted from the waters surrounding the more than 7,000 islands as well as the livelihood and employment generated by the maritime industry deserve focus and attention. All these benefits and advantages from the maritime industry oblige Filipinos to protect the seas within their ability and capacity to do, a persuasion derived from the assumption that Filipinos have a full appreciation of such benefits from the maritime industry.