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Philippines Launches Marine Research in Sandy Cay to Safeguard Biodiversity and Food Security

The Philippines has begun a crucial marine research mission in Sandy Cay, located within the West Philippine Sea (WPS). This initiative aims to assess the area’s biodiversity and ensure the country’s food security.

Scientists from the UP Institute of Biology, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Department of Agriculture – National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (DA-NFRDI) are leading the research under Dr. Jonathan Anticamara. Initial findings from Sandy Cay 1 and 2 are expected as early   as Friday.

According to Dr. Anticamara, this is the first-ever marine research project conducted in Sandy Cay. He emphasizes the importance of understanding these offshore reefs, which are part of Philippine territory but remain largely unexplored.

The research will focus on identifying the types of corals, fish, and invertebrates in the WPS feature. Scientists hope to assess the current health of the reef ecosystem and expect to find a diverse and flourishing marine population due to Sandy Cay’s offshore location.

The research will incorporate various components, including environmental and biochemical assessments, analysis of basic water parameters, and a fish visual census. Dr. Anticamara also highlighted the possibility of discovering unnatural elements or dumped corals, potentially linked to previous activities in the area. In September 2023, experts found dead and crushed corals in Sandy Cay 2, a practice linked to China’s past reclamation activities.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for WPS, Commodore Jay Tarriela, emphasized the government’s goal of understanding Sandy Cay’s environmental impact through scientific research.

Concerns and Security Measures

Anticipating potential interference from Chinese vessels, the BFAR and PCG have deployed four vessels to safeguard the research activities. This measure underscores ongoing tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

Balikatan Exercises Held Outside Philippine Waters

In a related development, House Deputy Majority Leader Jude Acidre expressed his support for the Balikatan military exercises, involving Philippine and American troops, being conducted for the first time beyond Philippine territorial waters. He views this as a necessary step to ensure national security.

The Balikatan activities will take place off the west coast of Palawan and include various drills to enhance regional security cooperation.

The Philippines’ move to conduct marine research in Sandy Cay and the Balikatan exercises highlight the country’s ongoing efforts to protect its territory and marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.