Last week, I attended a regional training for Port State Control Officers (PSCO) in Klang, the major port city of Malaysia. The training was about enhancing the capability of participating countries (the Philippines included) in exercising control over ships calling at their respective ports so that they do not unnecessarily discharge harmful substances and organisms into the territorial waters of the country the ships are visiting.
The seas and the oceans cover 72 percent of the earth’s surface; of this, 30 percent is under national jurisdiction. This means nations assume the fundamental duty of protecting the marine environment to the extent that this come under their jurisdiction. Of course protection of the marine environment extends into the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, and preventing pollution of the seas starts with the decision of every country to exercise control over the sources of waste, from ashore or from ships.
Wastes coming from shore mostly generated by factories, residential areas, commercial establishments, and inland waterways and tributaries that empty overflowing waters into the sea, comprise the biggest source of waste found in the marine environment. This is most pronounced during rainy days and typhoons when garbage carried off to sea is deposited back at the coastline.
Notwithstanding that ship-generated waste is minimal compared with those coming from land-based sources, a string of international and national standards and regulations has been formulated and implemented to prevent, control and contain discharge of waste from ships which could cause damage to the seas. The Philippines has adopted measures to ensure Philippine-flagged ships wherever they may be found comply with international conventions and national regulations relating to the protection of the environment. Also, the country exercises control over foreign-flagged ships that are in the country’s coastal or port areas, ever watchful that no waste is discharged into our waters.
For the Philippines, protection of the marine environment deserves priority attention. We only need to see our coastal waters to validate the general impression we have miserably failed in protecting the environment. Manila Bay, where one views the idyllic sunset, is also known as the repository of waste and garbage coming from both shore and ships. Of utmost importance is the fact that fishing remains the main livelihood for many Filipinos and therefore sustaining a healthy marine environment becomes a main concern.
Dealing with the subject of marine environment protection from the maritime industry standpoint demands extensive treatment. I must admit, I hardly scratched the surface of this subject and I vow this is but the initial salvo in a treatise intended to remind the maritime industry players become responsible protector of the marine environment.