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Phl pushes for immediate conclusion of WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies

Author: DA Communications Group | 19 July 2021

Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez called on fellow agriculture and trade ministers to speed up negotiations to come up with new disciplines to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfished stocks, and overcapacity and overfishing.

Leading the Philippine delegation, the two Cabinet secretaries made the call during the virtual ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade negotiations committee on fisheries subsidies, on July 15, 2021.

“The Philippines stands together with other WTO member-countries who are committed to deliver an outcome in the fisheries subsidy negotiations ahead of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in December this year,” said Secretary Lopez.

“This will only be possible if there is solid political will and diplomatic flexibility in the negotiations,” he added.

For his part, Secretary Dar said “the current draft text of the agreement contains a carve-out that if a prohibited subsidy occurs in disputed waters, it will not be addressed by a WTO panel, as this will provide a loophole for countries involved in maritime disputes to be exempted from the disciplines.” He thus urged the WTO members to reconsider the current language.

“Issues of territorial claims or delimitation of maritime boundaries or zones are of the highest concern for the Philippines, but nothing must prohibit a duly constituted panel from hearing a case,” added Secretary Dar.

He also emphasized that flexibility and exemptions for poor and vulnerable artisanal fishers in developing countries and least-developed countries should not create a permanent exception from effective disciplines to address overcapacity and overfishing.

Declining fish stocks threaten to worsen poverty and endanger coastal communities that rely on fishing,  according to the WTO, based on latest data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

It added that fish stocks are at risk of collapsing in many parts of the world due to overexploitation, where an estimated 34 percent (%) of global stocks are overfished compared to 10% in 1974, reflecting the pace of exploitation and indicating that fish population could not replenish as fast as it should. ### (DA StratComms)

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