China, ASEAN sign 10-year pact on marine protection

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — China has agreed to work with its Southeast Asian neighbors to protect marine and coastal biodiversity in the South China Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently released a copy of the declaration on a 10-year coastal and marine environment protection in the South China Sea signed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The declaration, which sets 2017 to 2027 as the Decade for Protection of Coastal and Marine Environment in the South China Sea, was among the documents approved in the recently concluded ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila last week.

It was signed by the leaders during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit, held on Nov. 13 in time with the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The declaration on biodiversity protection was on top of the agreement between ASEAN and China for the crafting of a Code of Conduct in the disputed waters.

In the declaration, the leaders of ASEAN and China recognized the need to continue developing and sustaining environmentally-friendly mechanisms to mitigate the effects of climate change and transboundary marine environmental pollution and degradation.

They noted that the current environmental situation in the South China Sea requires collective attention and action to protect the marine ecosystem and biodiversity, including coral reefs, cold water habitats, hydrothermal vents and seamounts.

“(We emphasize) the need to promote responsible fishing practices, environmentally friendly fishing methods and combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, to ensure sustainable fishery resources and achieve food security,” read the declaration.

“(We recognize) the importance of protecting the South China Sea as a natural resource base for economic and social development for the present and future generations and recognizing the benefits that would be gained from having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” it added.

China is facing criticisms over its land reclamation activities in disputed waters, which experts said had extensively damaged the marine biodiversity and ecosystem in the South China Sea.

Its fishermen also regularly harvest giant clams, corals and other endangered and protected marine species from areas in the South China Sea.

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