Protecting the VIP

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
Protecting the VIP
Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Metro Pacific Investments Corp.; Secretary Raphael P. M. Lotilla of the Department of Energy; Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Ramon S. Ang, president and CEO of San Miguel Corp.; and Sabin M. Aboitiz, CEO of Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

The Verde Island Passage (VIP) is a strait that separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro, connecting the West Philippine Sea with Tayabas Bay and, beyond it, the Sibuyan Sea.

By tradition, the VIP as a sea lane is one of the busiest in the country because it acts as a corridor from the Port of Manila to the rest of the country down south.

The Verde Island Passage has been identified as a site of high marine biodiversity importance in the so-called Coral Triangle, a roughly triangular area in the tropical waters around the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

The Coral Triangle has been identified as a global center for marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation, also known as the “Amazon of the seas” in reference to the Amazon rainforest in South America.

In 2006, a team of marine conservationists declared the Philippines the Center of Marine Biodiversity in the world and the Verde Island Passage as the “Center of the Center of Marine Shore Fish Biodiversity.”

Accordingly, because the VIP is a very busy sea lane, the passage of commercial vessels and ferries through the strait on a daily basis damages the rich marine life underneath the sea.

Hence, the impending and urgent need to protect and preserve the Verde Island Passage.

MPIC chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

In 2006, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 578 that established the national policy on biological diversity and prescribed its implementation throughout the country, particularly the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor.

It established the Ad Hoc Task Force on Verde Island Passage to “ensure the protection, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor.”

Protecting and preserving the Verde Island Passage is a humongous and challenging task that requires a PPP or Public-Private Partnership in order to successfully manage any protection and preservation effort.

Just recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), represented by Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga, and the Department of Energy (DOE), represented by Secretary Raphael Lotilla, entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the country’s three largest conglomerates for the protection and management of the Verde Island Passage.

The author and son Javi Toledo with Manuel V. Pangilinan.

The three, collectively known as the trifecta, are Metro Pacific Investments Corp., represented by chairman, president and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan; San Miguel Corp., represented by its president and CEO Ramon S. Ang; and Aboitiz Equity Ventures, represented by its president and CEO Sabin M. Aboitiz.

The MOU was signed in simple ceremonies at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City. It takes effect for five years from date of signing with a possible extension, and with funding from each of the five signatories to ensure that the VIP will thrive as a marine protected area.

The MOU was established to support clean energy transition towards sustainable and resilient low carbon development, put up Marine Science Research stations in the VIP to advance science, policy and practices needed by the industry, and commit to responsible stewardship and sustainable access and use of the VIP’s coastal and marine resources, as well as to create stakeholder platforms to ensure the welfare of the surrounding communities.

The author with Ramon S. Ang, Manuel V. Pangilinan, DENR Secretary Loyzaga, Energy Secretary Lotilla, and Sabin M. Aboitiz.

The MOU likewise called for the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) that would work on specific areas and programs that each of the conglomerates would undertake, together with the DENR and DOE.

As chairman MVP had said during the signing, they are committed to making sure that in the quest to provide clean, reliable and affordable energy, they are also paying attention to safeguarding the environment and the communities.

“Our people’s welfare and future depend on our ability to harmonize these goals, MVP said. “But because we have committed partners in San Miguel, Aboitiz, the DENR and the DOE, there are good grounds for optimism.”

As we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, we remember not just to protect and preserve our national patrimony, such as the Verde Island Passage, but to also uphold and defend our national sovereignty — that our sacrifices and gains for independence throughout history shall not have been in vain.
Mabuhay ang Republika ng Pilipinas!

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