Climate and Environment

DENR assesses Verde Island Passage for protected area status

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
DENR assesses Verde Island Passage for protected area status
Fisherfolk hold a protest in the waters of Batangas City on April 22, Earth Day to denounce the expansion of fossil gas plants and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the area.
Mara Manuel for Center for Energy, Ecology and Development

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Thursday that it is currently assessing whether the biologically diverse Verde Island Passage (VIP) is suitable to become a legally protected area. 

Environmental advocates have been calling on the government to include the VIP as a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) to prevent the degradation of the marine corridor. 

DENR Calabarzon Regional Executive Director Nilo Tamoria said the agency is still conducting a suitability assessment, a tool for rapid review of biodiversity to determine the suitability of an area for establishment as a protected area. 

"Once the suitability assessment is done, there will be a review committee before we can finally endorse definitely toward the direction of [VIP] being included in the NIPAS," Tamoria told reporters in a briefing. 

Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga emphasized the importance of securing the cooperation of surrounding provinces in declaring the VIP a legally protected marine area.

The provinces of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon surround the VIP, which scientists dub the "center of the center" of the world's marine shorefish biodiversity.

Last year, VIP was recognized as a "hope spot" by conservation nonprofit Mission Blue, recognizing the area's critical role in ocean health.

Despite its ecological significance, VIP, a major shipping route, grapples with pollution from commercial vessels, passenger ferries, and nearby gas and chemical plants.
Illegal and unregulated fishing, tourism, and climate change also threaten the marine corridor. 

The oil spill off Oriental Mindoro last year endangered the delicate ecosystems of VIP. 

A report by think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) estimated that the oil spill caused P40.1 billion in environmental damage, significantly higher than the DENR's initial estimate of P7 billion.

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