EDITORIAL - A regional heritage
(The Philippine Star) - November 5, 2015 - 9:00am

“A piece of heaven on Earth” – this was how the executive director of the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity described the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan. The description is no exaggeration: the reef network of Tubbataha, one of the world’s most extensive, is an explosion of coral shapes and colors, and is home to a rich collection of endangered marine life.

The marine reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been declared the 35th Heritage Park of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The designation adds to the responsibility of the Philippines to protect the fragile ecosystem in the coral forest.

Fishing in the marine reserve is banned while diving is strictly regulated. The Tubbataha management and the government of Palawan have achieved a measure of success in minimizing marine pollution that damages corals. But resources to protect the reef have been limited, and the marine reserve is threatened by poachers and human error.

In January 2013, vast areas of the reef were destroyed when a US Navy minesweeper ran aground. Three months later, a Chinese fishing boat also struck the reef, destroying an estimated 4,000 square meters of corals. Worse, the boat was found to be carrying hundreds of pangolins, whose meat is a prized delicacy in China and whose scales are used in traditional medicine.

Scientists have developed ways of coaxing new growth from damaged corals, but it can take a lifetime before significant reef restoration is achieved. The country has already lost massive tracts of coral forests. The latest distinction bestowed on Tubbataha should lead to greater efforts to protect what is now a regional heritage.

ACIRC ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS BIODIVERSITY HERITAGE PARK IN JANUARY MARINE PALAWAN REEF TUBBATAHA TUBBATAHA REEFS NATURAL PARK WORLD HERITAGE SITE
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