PH accepts WTO fisheries subsidies agreement

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PH accepts WTO fisheries subsidies agreement
The Philippines deposited its instrument of acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies on February 27. Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. (right), Secretary of Agriculture, and Alfredo E. Pascual, Secretary of Trade and Industry (left), presented the Philippines’ instrument of acceptance to World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo from WTO.
  • The Philippines deposited its instrument of acceptance of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies on February 27
  • This makes the Philippines the 70th member of the WTO to accede to the agreement
  • The deal prohibits subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; subsidies concerning overfished stocks; and subsidies for fishing in the unregulated high seas
  • Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said the agreement is vital to the Philippines, being a climate-vulnerable country

The Philippines has deposited its instrument of acceptance of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, a crucial step towards curbing harmful subsidies and safeguarding the world’s depleting fish stocks.

The instrument was deposited on February 27, making the Philippines the 70th member of the WTO to accede to the agreement. Forty more formal acceptances are needed for the agreement to come into effect. The deal will enter into force upon acceptance of its legal instrument by two-thirds of the membership.

“I am delighted that the Philippines has formally accepted the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies at MC13,” said WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a statement.

“This action demonstrates a strong endorsement of the WTO by the Philippines, as well as its dedication to preserving our oceans for the people who rely on them for livelihood and food security, and for fostering global cooperation in our shared aspiration for sustainability,” Okonjo-Iweala added.

The agreement, adopted on June 17, 2022, prohibits subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; subsidies concerning overfished stocks; and subsidies for fishing in the unregulated high seas.

It also provides flexibility for developing and least-developed countries to provide subsidies up to and within the exclusive economic zone for two years from the date of entry into force of the agreement. This provision benefits the country’s small-scale and artisanal fisherfolks, who fish within their respective municipal waters.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr said: “This is a significant milestone in our continuing effort to show our country’s commitment to address the global concern over illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and the conservation and sustainable use of our oceans. As the first WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement enters into force, this will usher in a new era of cooperation and collaboration among nations. We dedicate this milestone to the Filipino people, the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources, and most importantly the communities that stand to benefit from the WTO Agreement. Finally, we fervently hope the rest of the WTO membership will be inspired to complete their own domestic ratification processes for the Agreement to enter into force in the soonest time possible.”

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual for his part said: “The Agreement allows Members to grant subsidies for disaster relief under certain conditions to support fisherfolks impacted by natural disasters.

“This is vital to the Philippines, being a climate-vulnerable country, especially since small-scale and artisanal fisherfolks are heavily impacted by strong typhoons and the increasing sea temperatures exacerbated by climate change.”

The Philippines can also avail of technical assistance from the WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism to assist in implementing the disciplines and obligations of the agreement.

The deal represents a historic achievement for the WTO membership as the first Sustainable Development Goal target to be fully met, the first SDG target met through a multilateral agreement, the first WTO agreement to focus on the environment, the first broad, binding, multilateral agreement on ocean sustainability, and only the second agreement reached at the WTO since its inception.