Filipino scientists kick off research expedition to Kalayaan islands

Filipino scientists kick off research expedition to Kalayaan islands
Scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute will be using research vessel Kasarinlan in their two-week research expedition in the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea.
The STAR / Evelyn Macairan

MANILA, Philippines — An all-Filipino scientific expedition to the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the West Philippine Sea was launched Monday.

Scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI), along with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), will conduct a two-week biological and oceanographic research in the West Philippine Sea.

BFAR researchers will be using BRP Lapu-Lapu, a BFAR Multi-Mission Offshore Vessel that was built in Navotas City and commissioned into the BFAR fleet in 2017. The UP MSI scientists will be aboard research vessel Kasarinlan. This will also be the first time that Kasarinlan will sail as a research shop of the UP MSI.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources funded this project called "Predicting Responses between Ocean Transport and Ecological Connectivity of Threatened ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea" or PROTECT WPS.

"The expedition is a continuation of the activities done in previous years. PROTECT-WPS will condut biological and oceanographic research activities and surveys in some reefs and islands in the KIG-WPS with the aim of generating baseline data and understand changes occurring in threatened marine ecosystems," the scientists said in a statement.

Deo Onda of the UP MSI said the marine voyage seeks to put emphasis on threatened ecosystem in the Kalayaan Island Group, which is also called the Spratly Islands.

"Ibig sabihin sa mundo na nagbabago, nandyan 'yung climate change, global warming, acidification, increase in sea surface temperature. Ano ba 'yung response ng mga lugar na malayo doon sa activity ng tao kasi walang syudad, wala tayong input masyado doon," Onda said in a press briefing.

(In a changing world... we have climate change, global warming, acidifcation, increase in sea surface temperature. What is the response of the areas that are far from human activity becuse there are no cities... we don't have much input on that)

The research expedition comes as hundreds of Chinese vessels have been spotted loitering in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island, which is part of the KIG in the West Philippine Sea.

The military earlier confirmed that the Chinese ships, believed to be part of the country's maritime militia, might have been deployed to monitor the developments on Pag-asa Island as the Philippines conducts rehabilitation efforts.

Asked if the Filipino scientific team has a contingency plan in case they run into Chinese vessels during the expedition, Onda said all factors have been considered when they decided to push through with the mission.

"It's all been thought out, all things considered and we have a plan," Onda said but did not elaborate.

The MSI scientist added that they have been doing marine research in the area for many years and they have assessed all factors on the ground. — Patricia Lourdes Viray with reports from Evelyn Macairan







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