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Agriculture

Coral reefs take center stage during Month of the Ocean

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The richness of the country’s coral reefs is the main focal point of the observance of the Month of the Ocean (MOO) this May, according to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has, thus,  lined up various activities for this year’s celebration under the theme “Ang Bahura ay Kagubatan sa Karagatan, Ating Pangalagaan!” (The Coral Reefs are the Forests of the Seas, Let Us Protect Them). 

“The focus on coral reefs highlights the premium that we put on our coral reefs which protect our coastlines naturally and give tremendous economic benefits to millions of Filipinos particularly through fisheries and tourism,” said Paje, who recently represented the Philippines at the Sustainable Ocean Summit held in Washington, D.C. from April 22 to 24.

Paje  said the iconic species of MOO 2013 is the thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) that is regularly seen in Monad Shoal in Cebu’s Malapascua Island. “Classified as a vulnerable species, this predator’s presence is an indicator of the reef ecosystem’s good health,” Paje said. 

The Philippines is home to Palawan’s Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, which was declared  a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. 

The country is also home to the Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro, considered the second largest contiguous coral reef system in the world next to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. 

These two world-renowned reefs, along with the other coral reefs in the country’s 240 million hectares of water, and the biodiversity that thrives within them, provide food security to Filipinos who source 80 percent of their protein requirement from the oceans. 

One of the highlights of the month-long celebration will be the launch of the DENR’s Sustainable Coral Reef Ecosystem Management Program (SCREMP) on May 20. 

The SCREMP is a national program where the protection and rehabilitation of the coral reef ecosystems will be conducted with a strategic, sustainable and ecosystem-based approach. 

The program includes the awarding of winners of a photo competition featuring the underwater beauty of the Philippines’ coral reef ecosystem.           

The Coastal Law Enforcement Manual, a guidebook for multisectoral groups enforcing laws to protect the country’s coastal and marine resources, would also be launched.

A memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the promotion of responsible diving would be signed between the DENR and the Reef-World Foundation during the SCREMP launch.

A separate MOA, with the local government of Boracay as additional signatory, would be signed on May 30 to launch the implementation of the foundation’s Green Fins project on the island. 

The MOO would  also see diving enthusiasts and coral reef advocates participate in the “Linis Bahura: Sisid para sa Kalikasan 2013,” where they would collect crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) from the coral reefs along the Verde Island Passage in Pagkilatan, Batangas. The crown of thorns is a kind of starfish  known to destroy entire coral reef populations by feeding on live coral tissues. 

Information materials on the richness of coral reef ecosystems, their economic importance, and the various ways to conserve and sustain them would be displayed or posted at all MRT-3 stations along EDSA for the whole month of May. 

A group of artists from the Dolphins Love Freedom group would restore the year-old Biodiversity Mural Wall of the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City. The Wall was painted last year during the celebration of MOO 2012. 

For one month starting May 15, an interactive walking tour promoting 22 ecotourism sites established under the DENR’s Integrated Coastal Resources Management Project (ICRMP) is on exhibit at the NAPWC. 

On May 19, coral reef advocates are holding a bike parade from Quezon City to Roxas Boulevard to drum up awareness on the state of the country’s coral reefs. 

Finally, on May 29-30, the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Sub-committee on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) would hold a meeting on initiatives on establishment and management of MPAs within the region. 

The meeting would  also see the launch of the State of the Coral Triangle Report, detailing the state of coral reef ecosystems and resources within the Coral Triangle. 

The Philippines is an active member of the six-country Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security.

The Coral Triangle is known to contain 40 percent of the world’s coral reef fish species and 75 percent of the world’s coral species, 53 percent of these were found to be resilient to climate change.          

MOO was first observed in 1999 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 57.

ANG BAHURA

APO REEF NATURAL PARK

CORAL

CORAL REEFS

CORAL TRIANGLE

PAJE

QUEZON CITY

REEF

REEFS

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