By Ben O. de Vera, January 21, 2020; Philippine Daily Inquirer

The state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) is pushing for the passage of the Philippine maritime zones and archipelagic sea lanes bills pending in Congress to be able to dip into P1 trillion worth of opportunities presented by the “blue” economy. Neda Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon told a press conference on Monday the said measures must be passed to “define our territory.”

“We might not be optimizing at present our access to maritime resources—in fact, these are not clearly defined under our laws. That’s why we are also including these [bills] in the legislative agenda to give our fisherfolk and commercial investors clearer guidelines on how to optimize the use of our resources,” Neda Undersecretary Adoracion Navarro added. The prospect of oil discovery in our shores would also be covered by these bills, Neda officials said.The World Bank defines blue economy as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth.

Edillon said the Philippine maritime zones and archipelagic sea lanes bills would prevent some of the country’s neighbors from encroaching in our West Philippine Sea territories. However, Edillon said the bills did not cover territories still subject to competing claims.“Our problem is that because there’s no general declaration of what our territories are … we have some encroachment being done by our neighbors. So we claim that [an issue is a case of] encroachment, but actually we don’t have it in writing. We don’t have any document that says this is actually ours,” Edillon explained.

“There’s a lot of interest now in the so-called blue economy. In fact, we need to pay more attention to the blue economy. We have really undertapped, underexploited and underused the value of the blue economy,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda chief Ernesto Pernia said.Citing a University of the Philippines School of Economics paper, the Neda chief said “over P1 trillion could be reaped from tapping the blue economy, and that’s even a very conservative estimate.”