10 March 2017 – The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications, and Search and Rescue (NCSR) approved the Philippine proposal to establish the entire Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) in the Sulu Sea as an Area to be Avoided (ATBA) to protect the fragile marine environment in the TRNP, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With the ATBA as the sole Associated Protective Measure (APM) over the TRNP, ship masters sailing through the Sulu Sea will be guided to plot a course that will not enter the Tubbataha Reefs and thereby reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of accidental ship grounding by keeping ships well away from the TRNP and its component coral reef atolls/structures.
The TRNP is designated as a national Marine Protected Area through Republic Act No. 10067 (known as the TRNP Act) enacted by the Philippine Congress to provide the national legal and institutional framework for the protection of the Tubbataha Reefs. The statute defines the TRNP boundaries, establishes the basic rules for the management of the TRNP, and provides for the authority of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board to manage the TRNP
The Philippine Delegation to the fourth session of the NCSR, held from 6-10 March 2017 at the IMO Headquarters in London, made a detailed presentation on the proposed ATBA at the meeting of the Experts Group on Ships Routeing held during NCSR 4
Philippine Permanent Representative to the IMO and head of Delegation Gilberto Asuque and Prof. Jay Batongbacal, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, College of Law, University of the Philippines conducted the presentation at the Experts Group meeting, assisted by Capt. Eustacio Nimrod Enriquez, PCG, Maritime Technical Adviser, Philippine Embassy.