Philippine: RP, China Spratlys deal may affect tuna industry
The country’s tuna industry, which is centered in this city, would be adversely affected should Chinese companies be allowed to conduct offshore mining ventures in the disputed Spratly Islands, a nationwide militant fisherfolk group said.
Fernando L. Hicap, chairperson of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), said the alleged secret deal between the Philippines and China on the Spratlys would allow Chinese oil corporations to conduct offshore mining in the contested area.
“If China is allowed to conduct offshore mining in the Spratlys and inside the territorial waters, the country’s tuna stocks will be reduced by of 50,000 metric tons of tuna per year or more than that,” he said in a statement.
“What is sure is that this offshore mining escapade will create a major imbalance in the ecosystem of tuna and other marine species,” he added.
The Philippine tuna is a major industry that accounts about 12 percent of total fish production. It is an important component of the national economy, generating more than 120,000 jobs and US$280 million in annual exports. The total landings in the Philippines exceed 400,000 metric tons annually, and the country ranks second in world tuna catches, and fifth among canned tuna producers, industry data in General Santos showed.
Mindanao’s tuna industry has a current annual value of roughly P6 billion. This includes approximately P3 billion in fish landings and P3 billion in value added processing. The industry is centered in General Santos City and supports about 75,000 direct jobs and generates foreign exchange earnings of about US$160 million, it added.
Hicap said the country’s exclusive economic zone, including its claim in the Spratlys, is the breeding and spawning ground of Philippine precious tuna and other migratory fish species.
According to Pamalakaya, the territorial waters, including the Philippine claimed territories in the Spratly are known to be rich in oil deposits, aside from tuna and other marine species.
Hicap said they have learned that the Philippine-China Spratlys exploration deal was allegedly contained in an agreement signed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the ZTE International in January 2007 in exchange for projects amounting to $4 billion.
The $4 billion package from China includes the stalled controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) deal, the Cyber Education project, and the North Rail and South Rail projects, which are allegedly overpriced by hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the left-leaning group.
The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have been claiming for the Spratlys.