PH a ‘significant beneficiary’ of Australia’s P3.6-B maritime programs

The Philippines is a “significant beneficiary” of the P3.6-billion Indo-Pacific maritime programs sponsored by the Australian government to expand the region’s maritime security and marine environment protection, Australian Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Dr. Moya Collett said.

Philippine and Australian flags (Oleksii Liskonih/Getty Images)

The pronouncement was made when the envoy spoke during a forum entitled, “Protecting the Seas: Preserving Biodiversity Through Marine Protection in the West Philippine Sea”, organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute.

Noting that Australia’s relationship with the Philippines encompasses defense and security, development and education, trade and investment, and people to people links, the envoy stressed that the two countries’ maritime cooperation “is going from strength to strength.”

“Given the importance of maritime security and marine environmental protection to Australia, we are investing P3.6 billion in regional maritime programs and the Philippines is a significant beneficiary,” Collett explained.

“The marine environment is under threat from pollution, climate change, and over exploitation. And it is more important than ever that we work together to protect it. And we are proud to support the Philippines in its efforts to preserve the marine environment and become more climate change and disaster resilient,” she added.

Through the program, Australia is funding a number of coral restoration projects throughout the Philippines, including in Pangasinan and Verde Islands, and in the West Philippine Sea in Palawan and Zambales.

“Australia highly values its maritime partnership with the Philippines, and we will continue to work together to protect maritime biodiversity, which is so important to the health and prosperity of our two nations,” the envoy said.

Stratbase ADR Institute President Dindo Manhit, for his part, stressed the importance of continued multilateral cooperation among like-minded states.

The conservation and preservation of marine life, he argued, is a shared responsibility.

“In all these endeavors, the efforts of the national and international community to secure biodiversity and promote tourism must complement and respect the Philippines’ 2016 arbitral victory,” he said, taking note of the 2016 The Hague ruling on China’s claims in the resource-rich region.

Manhit lamented that during the 2016 arbitral ruling revealed that China’s land reclamation and construction of artificial islands had caused “irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem” and permanently destroyed the evidence of the natural conditions of various reefs.

“These unlawful practices are being carried out until the present and continue to cause severe damage to the marine life and ecosystems that make the West Philippine Sea a critical fishing area for the country’s food and economic security,” he added.