Palawan council tasked to ensure West PH Sea, environment protection
Addressing the security and development of the West Philippine Sea is a major concern for Palawan, which has jurisdiction over natural resources-rich islands, including some of the country’s major fishing grounds such as the Kalayaan Island Group.
This burden lies on the shoulders of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), the office created by virtue of Republic Act 7611 or the Strategic Environment Plan (SEP), to establish a system that controls, protects, and develops the country’s so-called “last biodiversity frontier”.
“On Palawan’s shoulders lie that task of showing how to strike a balance between the desired social and economic growth and the preservation of the country’s natural resources,” PCSD Executive Director Teodoro Jose Matta said in a statement over the weekend.
Two contentious national issues recently pushed the role of PCSD under the microscope, first on Kalayaan which forms part of the West Philippine Sea. Just last week retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio called on President Duterte to ban Chinese fishermen from further fishing in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in order to protect the interest of Filipino fishermen.
“PCSD is highly involved in addressing the security and development concerns on the West Philippine Sea as it believes that the matters relating to the WPS are crucial to the well-being of Palawan, as well as national security and development,” the agency said in a statement.
The second issue that the PCSD has to address is the national government’s new policy pronouncements on mining agreements. On April 14, 2021, President Duterte signed Executive Order 130 lifting the moratorium on new mining agreements believing that it will usher “significant economic benefits” to the country.
“The PCSD’s position of balancing interests between economic growth and sustainable use of our natural resources is an extraordinary feat laudable in the midst of health crisis and economic frailties,” it said.
According to Matta, the PCSD has developed methods in order to achieve this “balance” and one of these is the creation of Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN), which provides a graded system of protection and development control over the terrestrial, coastal and marine components of the province.
Recently, the ECAN maps of Palawan’s municipalities of Quezon and Bataraza, known to be economically dependent on mining, were submitted for amendment.
The updated zoning classifications of the maps can potentially allow the expansion of mining activities in those areas.
However, the updates to the ECAN map will need the approval of the PCSD if the council deems them consistent with SEP law and other current guidelines.
The Philippines is considered as one of the world’s richly-endowed countries in mineral resources, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.
In fact, the national government recently acknowledged the significant economic benefits of the mining industry when it issued Executive Order No.130 on April 14, 2021, effectively lifting the moratorium on mineral agreements.
The PCSD said it is determined to achieve the proper balancing of interests for Palawan.
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