The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications, and Search and Rescue (NCSR) has approved the Philippine proposal to establish the entire Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) in the Sulu Sea as an Area to be Avoided (ATBA) to protect the fragile marine environment.
A battery of experts led by Philippine Permanent Representative to the IMO and head of Delegation Gilberto Asuque and Prof. Jay Batongbacal, director, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, College of Law, University of the Philippines delivered the presentation, assisted by Capt. Eustacio Nimrod Enriquez of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Under the proposal, ship masters sailing through the Sulu Sea will be guided to plot a course that will not enter the Tubbataha Reefs and thereby reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of accidental ship grounding by keeping ships well away from the area.
The TRNP is designated as a national Marine Protected Area through Republic Act No. 10067.
The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee last year approved in principle the designation of the Tubbataha Reef as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area.
The Tubbataha reef has an estimated surface area of 127,989 square miles (331,492 square kilometers).