Philippines ratifies WTO deal on fisheries subsidies

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas, Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star
Philippines ratifies WTO deal on fisheries subsidies
Various seafood products are on display for sale at the fish market in Dagupan City on May 30, 2023.
STAR / Cesar Ramirez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has ratified the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on fisheries subsidies, which seeks to curb harmful subsidies like support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF), bringing the landmark multilateral deal closer to effectivity.

The Philippines became the 70th WTO member-country that deposited its instrument of acceptance of the fisheries subsidies agreement since the deal was forged in June 2022 during the multilateral body’s 12th Ministerial Conference.

According to the WTO, 40 more member-countries need to formally accept the agreement since at least two-thirds of the WTO membership, currently at 164, is required in order for the agreement to come into effect.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said the country’s ratification of the fisheries agreement showed its commitment in addressing IUUF and support to the conservation and sustainable use of oceans.

Laurel said the entry into force of the agreement would “usher” a “new era of cooperation and collaboration among nations.”

“We dedicate this milestone to the Filipino people, the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources, and most importantly the communities that stand to benefit from the WTO agreement,” he said in a video message released by the WTO yesterday morning.

“We fervently hope the rest of the WTO membership will be inspired to complete their own domestic ratification processes for the agreement to enter into force in the soonest time possible,” he said.

WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the Philippines demonstrated a “strong endorsement” of the WTO after the country made the formal acceptance of the fisheries subsidies at the start of the fisheries negotiations on the second day of the 13th Ministerial Conference last Feb. 27.

The Philippines’ action, Okonjo-Iweala pointed out, showed “dedication” in preserving the oceans, especially for people who rely on the sea for livelihood and food security.

The fisheries subsidies agreement prohibits support for IUUF, bans support for fishing overfished stocks, and ends subsidies for fishing in unregulated high seas, according to the WTO.

The agreement also established the fisheries funding mechanism that seeks to provide developing and least-developed countries with technical assistance and capacity building to meet their obligations under the agreement.

The Philippines stands to benefit from the fund, as it will aid it in improving its capacity and technical knowledge in managing its fisheries resources, according to the agriculture department.

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