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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Earth Day

The Philippine Star

International Mother Earth Day is marked today as some 2,000 skinned anteaters sit in freezers, seized from Chinese poachers whose ship ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last April 8. The scaly anteaters or pangolins were the only cargo found on the ship, which is supposed to be a fishing vessel.

The anteaters were discovered even as Philippine authorities noted that the 12 apprehended Chinese seemed too pale to have been fishing a long way from their homeland, beyond the maritime territory Beijing is claiming by drawing a so-called nine-dash line on the map. The pangolins are prized in China for their meat and scales, which are supposed to have medicinal properties.

It was the seventh time that a Chinese ship intruded in Tubbataha in the past decade, and the second time the World Heritage Site was damaged this year. The Chinese vessel struck the reef just days after the final chunk of the grounded US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian was extricated from the protected marine park.

Other Philippine reefs continue to be destroyed by pollution, starfish infestation, destructive fishing methods and outright illegal harvesting. Coral reefs are not the only natural resources that the Philippines is hard-pressed to protect. The country’s forest cover has steadily shrunk, with more trees being felled as the demand for paper spikes due to the spreading ban on plastic bags. Depleted watersheds have led to deadly landslides and massive flooding in recent years.

Despite the enactment of the Clean Air Act, there has been no marked improvement in air quality in Metro Manila, while pollution has worsened in other urban centers including top tourist destinations. There has been some progress in efforts to clean up the Pasig River, but pollution continues to threaten many other bodies of water across the archipelago. The country also lacks resources to protect its many endangered species including scaly anteaters and giant marine turtles.

Since the first Earth Day was observed over four decades ago, global awareness of climate change has increased and numerous initiatives have been pursued to save the planet from environmental degradation. But the planet continues to be threatened on many fronts and environmental protection efforts must be ramped up. As United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared, “When we threaten the planet, we undermine our only home – and our future survival.”

AS UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI

BEIJING

CLEAN AIR ACT

EARTH DAY

INTERNATIONAL MOTHER EARTH DAY

METRO MANILA

OTHER PHILIPPINE

PASIG RIVER

TUBBATAHA

TUBBATAHA REEF

WORLD HERITAGE SITE

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