THE PHILIPPINES has signed on to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (FSA) aimed at curbing harmful subsidies and safeguarding depleting fish stocks.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Trade and Industry said that the FSA is expected to benefit small-scale and artisanal fishermen fishing in municipal waters, who are allowed a measure of relief in the form of subsidies during emergencies.

“The agreement allows members to grant subsidies for disaster relief under certain conditions to support fisherfolk impacted by natural disasters,” said Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual.

“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,” he added.

Under the agreement, the Philippines can also avail of technical assistance to help in implementing the FSA.

One of the obligations for countries signing the agreement is to provide an up-to-date electronic link that describes the country’s fisheries regimes with references to laws, regulations, and administrative procedures.

The Philippines deposited its instrument of acceptance of the FSA on Tuesday at the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr., who presented the instrument of acceptance along with Mr. Pascual, said signing up for the FSA represents a commitment to address concerns about unregulated and sustainable fishing.

“As the first WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement enters into force, this will usher in a new era of cooperation and collaboration among nations,” Mr. Tiu Laurel said.

“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,” he added.

First adopted at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in June 2022, the agreement will come into force once two-thirds, or 110 members, of the WTO membership have ratified it. The Philippines was the 70th member to accede to the FSA. — Justine Irish D. Tabile