The Philippines has implemented all measures to protect the world-renowned Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park to keep the biodiversity and ecological sensitivity of the area from the threats of international shipping.
The country recently filed an application to the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (IMO-MEPC) to designate Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and World Heritage Site as a Particular Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).
The application was submitted by Permanent Representative to the IMO Gilberto G.B. Asuque at the plenary meeting of the 69th session of the MEPC held at the IMO Headquarters in London in April this year.
Tubbataha, located in the Sulu Sea, is a living laboratory for the study of marine ecological processes and climate change adaptation. It lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the richest marine biodiversity region in the world.
The park has a 97,030 hectare “Core Zone” and a 350,000 hectare “Buffer Zone” surrounding it. In 1993, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was also included in 1999 in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
The area is significant in terms of its unique ecological, socio-economic, scientific and cultural characteristics. Its extensive coral reefs and associated ecosystems are vulnerable to damage from international shipping activity, particularly pollution arising from operational discharges and maritime incidents as well as the introduction of alien invasive species.
The application will now be endorsed to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for the consideration and approval of protective measures to be implemented in the reef.
The Philippines is proposing an “Area To Be Avoided” by ships and other watercraft over 150 gross tons plying the area.
The MSC and the MEPC are expected to approve the designation and suggested navigation routes by early 2017.
Asuque was assisted in the presentation of the Philippine proposal by Commodore Elson Hermogino, Commander, Marine Environmental Protection Committee, Capt. Rolando Punzalan, Technical Adviser, and Emma Sarne, Alternate Permanent Representative to IMO. Prof. Jay Batungbacal of the UP Institute for the Law of the Sea assisted in the technical preparation of the PSSA proposal.