Semirara vows to protect marine protected areas
Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Amid allegations of environment degradation, coal miner and power producer Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) has committed to protect marine protected areas (MPA) surrounding its coal mines in Semirara Island in Antique.

SMPC disclosed yesterday it has pledged to support the Caluya local government’s campaign to declare two near-shore sites in Semirara Island as MPA or marine reserves.

MPAs are coastal or marine areas placed under conservation or protection regimes by communities, local ordinances or national laws to restrict human activity.

Two near-shore sites were identified as MPAs by Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management (SUAKCREM), a leading marine and terrestrial research organization which conducted a biological survey of the island last year.

“Contrary to expectation for mining areas, the reefs surveyed has extensive coverage of live hard coral cover and relatively high fish biomass and density,” the study noted.

However, the research team also noted certain sites may have been affected by siltation and fishing activities but these sites have the potential to recover if “strictly protected from heavy fishing.”

“Prior to this research, marine diversity around the island was undocumented. We wanted an independent study to help resolve concerns and allegations of environmental degradation in Semirara Island,” said SMPC president and COO Victor Consunji.

Semirara has been part of the hit list of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez for allegedly causing environmental-related issues based on complaints of the local communities in Antique.

With SUAKCREM’s recommendation, SMPC said it would meet with its host community and the LGU to determine how best to support their marine conservation campaign. 

The coal firm is also pledging to restock giant clams on the two sites once these are legally declared as MPAs.

The company breeds and reseeds giant clams through its Marine Hatchery Laboratory in Semirara Island.

Of the 160,000 giant clams it has bred, around 40,000 have been reseeded in Tabunan Marine Sanctuary which is two to four kilometers away from the company’s Molave and Narra mine sites. Another 75 were also reintroduced in the near-shore sites of Barangay Semirara.

Giant clams promote biodiversity enhancement where they live as they attract corals, fishes and smaller marine biota. These giant clams also clean their environment when they sip in seawater for food and then release clean, clear water back to the sea.

However, overfishing of giant clams have placed this marine species in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.


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