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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Forests of the seas

The Philippine Star

Apart from upholding national sovereignty, there is another important reason for improving the nation’s capability to protect its territorial waters: protecting the marine environment, particularly endangered species and coral networks.

The Philippines is part of the Coral Triangle, recognized as the world’s center of marine biodiversity and therefore a top priority for environmental conservation. And the recognized “center of the center of marine biodiversity” in the world happens to be the Verde Island passage in Batangas. Palawan, meanwhile, is home to the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a World Heritage Site, while Occidental Mindoro is blessed with the Apo Reef Natural Park. The country has a special responsibility to protect these natural riches.

Also called the “Amazon of the seas,” the Coral Triangle sprawls across 5.7 million kilometers of marine waters in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. The triangle is home to over 3,000 species of fish and at least 500 species of corals – about 75 percent of the global total. An estimated 120 million people depend on the riches of the triangle for their livelihood.

This year Tubbataha suffered extensive damage, first from a US Navy minesweeper that ran aground for reasons still unclear, then from a Chinese boat with an illegal cargo of frozen scaly anteaters, an endangered species prized in China for its meat and medicinal properties. Chinese boats are now in Ayungin Reef, with no restraint on the harvesting of other endangered creatures such as sea turtles and certain shark species.

Protection of the so-called forests of the seas is the theme of the observation of May as Ocean Month. Filipinos source an estimated 80 percent of protein requirements from the sea, giving additional urgency to sustainable fisheries and coral reef conservation. It is often said that to whom much is given, much is also expected. The country has been blessed with a large share of the bounty of the ocean; more resolute action is needed to protect this blessing.

 

 

APO REEF NATURAL PARK

AYUNGIN REEF

CORAL TRIANGLE

OCCIDENTAL MINDORO

OCEAN MONTH

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

SOLOMON ISLANDS AND TIMOR-LESTE

TUBBATAHA REEF NATURAL PARK

VERDE ISLAND

WORLD HERITAGE SITE

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