The International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (IMO-MEPC) has endorsed the application of the Philippines to designate the world-renowned Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park as a Particular Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).
A belated news release from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) disclosed that the request was submitted by Permanent Representative to the IMO Gilberto G.B. Asuque at the plenary meeting of the 69th session of the MEPC in London on April 20.
The application of the Philippines is aimed at protecting the biodiversity and ecological sensitivity of the area from the threats of international shipping.
The Tubbataha Reef is located in the Sulu Sea, approximately 80 nautical miles from the island of Palawan, and 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 biogeographic region in the world.
The Tubbataha Reef presently encompasses an area comprised of a 97,030-hectare “Core Zone” and a 350,000-hectare “Buffer Zone” surrounding it.
“The area is significant in terms of its unique ecological, socio-economic, scientific and cultural characteristics. Its extensive coral reefs and associated ecosystems are very vulnerable to damage from international shipping activity, in particular physical damage and pollution arising from operational discharges and maritime incidents, as well as the introduction of alien invasive species,” the DFA said.
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 area.
These IMO-sanctioned measures are designed to further protect the area from the hazards of international shipping. 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 finally approve the designation and suggested navigation routes by early 2017. (MJD)