In a three-day CSO Summit held in Puerto Princesa Palawan on March 1-3, big wigs in the civic organizations, non-government offices, people’s organizations, fisherfolk cooperatives and academes come together and commit to protect the West Philippine Sea through a ceremonial hand painting signing.

More than 50 civil society organizations came together and convened. Led by Atty. Grizelda “Gerthie” Mayo-Anda of Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Atty. Ma. Ronely “Lolly” Bisquera-Sheen of Tanggol Kalikasan, and Dr. Allaine Baaco, Vice President of Research Development and Extension for Western Philippine University, the participants deliberated and agreed on their basis of unity and developed their coordinated actions in the CSO Statement of Commitment for WPS.

Said statement includes call to actions that empowers fisherfolks, local stakeholders and youth on the value of WPS and to effectively participate and represent in the governance activities and addresses concerns confronting WPS, including foreign intrusions and other threats.

When asked on the idea behind the convening of civic groups, Atty. Mayo-Anda shared “This is the first time CSOs get together after challenging years. It is gratifying to see that there are so many initiatives and good practices related to West Philippine Sea and the stories shared in the summit provide us hope and strength.”

CSO members and academe that attended the summit include Basnig Association in Quezon, C3 Philippines, Cabayugan Savers Group, Calamianes Resilience Network, Communities for Resilience (CFR), Inc., Conservation International Philippines Foundation Inc, Culion Foundation, De La Salle University, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Fisherfolk Organization in Quezon, Forest Foundation Philippines, Honda Bay Boat Owners Association, Impl. Project, Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Kalayaan Islands Tourism Agents Cooperative, Kalayaan Palawan Fishermen/Farmers Association, Katipunan ng mga Kilusan ng Artisanong Mangingisda sa Pilipinas (KKAMPi), Mangahan Taburi Fisherfolk Association, Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, Masagana Fisherfolk Association (MAFA), Masinloc Palauig Mussels Association, Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute, MOBPLS Environmental and Savers Group, National Youth Movement for the WPS, NGOs for Reform, Pagberegkes yang Kabayawang Yang Bgy. Buenavista, Palawan NGO Network, Palawan State University, Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka at Mangingisda, Pangasinan University, PANGISDA, PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc., President Ramon Magsaysay State University, Punta Baja Fisherfol Association, Quezon, Palawan FARMC’s Barukan Mangingisda Association, Punta Baja Fisherfolk Association/MFARMC, Quezon, Palawan FARMC’s Barukan Mangingisda Association, Ransang Fisherfolk Association, RARE Philippines, Samahan ng Maglalambat ng Bahile (Lambatan), Samahan ng Mangingisda ng Bahile, Samahan ng mga Katutubong Kabakihan sa Bgy. Marufinas, Samahang Mangingisda ng Tanguile 1 (SAMATA 1), Inc., San Salvador Biodiversity Friendly Livelihood, Inc., Shalom Women’s Biodiversity Conservation Association, Siete Pecados Marine Park, Silliman University, Sisiman Fishing Association, Inc., Subic Commercial Fishers Association, Inc., Suram ping Pagkakaisa Association, Tambuyog Development Center Inc., Tanggol Kalikasan, Unified Livelihood Agriculture Cooperative-Masinloc, Zambales and Western Philippines University.

The CSO Summit was organized by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its project Fish Right Program, Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans and Landscapes (SIBOL) Activity, and Investing in Sustainability and Partnerships for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Project.