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Philippines ratifies WTO subsidies agreement, advancing fisheries sustainability

WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies
From L to R: Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr.

By DTI-Bureau of International Trade Relations
February 28, 2024

ABU DHABI, UAE – In time for the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the Philippines has deposited its instrument of acceptance of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (FSA) on 27 February 2024. The Agreement is a crucial step towards curbing harmful subsidies and safeguarding the world’s depleting fish stocks.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual and Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. presented the country’s Instrument of Ratification to WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, making it the 70th Member to accede to the FSA.

The FSA prohibits subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, subsidies concerning overfished stocks, and subsidies for fishing in the unregulated high seas.

At the same time, the FSA provides flexibility to developing and least-developed countries to provide subsidies up to and within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 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.

According to DTI Secretary Pascual, “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.”

Moreover, the Philippines can avail of technical assistance from the WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism to assist in implementing the disciplines and obligations of the Agreement.

The Agreement was adopted at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2022 and will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO Membership (i.e., 110) have ratified it.