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SAVING 'NEMO'. Clownfish hide in anemones in the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape, a sea corridor that runs through Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and is considered the world's center of marine biodiversity. ANNA MARIA GONZALES/Contributor


Vilma Santos supports protection of marine biodiversity areas

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 15:08:00 08/19/2010

Filed Under: Environmental Issues, Conservation

MANILA, Philippines?Local government officials led by Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto have pledged their support for the protection of marine biodiversity conservation sites in the country.

"We are committed to sustain partnerships like this, which have yielded considerable gains for our marine environment and our people. We will exert more efforts and provide more resources to protect our Verde Island Passage,? Recto said in a statement.

Recto was one of the local chief executives who have pledged support to work closely with Conservation International-Philippines in protecting the country?s marine life.

CI-Philippines works in the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape, a 100 million-hectare area in the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas that spans Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The seascape is part of the Coral Triangle, considered the center of the world's marine biodiversity.

"In the face of threats stemming from climate change, overfishing, and marine habitat destruction, stakeholders from all over the country are responding to this challenge by adopting MPAs (marine protected areas) as among the tools that will ensure long-term viability of our rich marine resources," said Romeo Trono, country executive director of CI-Philippines.

Since 2005, CI-Philippines and its partners in the country and neighboring South East Asian have been supporting the establishment of MPA and MPA networks in priority marine biodiversity corridors in the seascape: Verde Island Passage Corridor between Batangas and Mindoro island, Cagayan Ridge in Sulu Sea, and the Trinational Sea Turtle Corridor encompassing the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The MPAs in these corridors are set aside for conservation and are protected from fishing to conserve critical habitats and allow fish stocks to thrive. The protected areas have been shown to have great potential in contributing to food security as well as climate change adaptation.

CI-Philippiens said that ensuring the effectiveness of these MPAs requires effective enforcement of relevant marine and fisheries laws. In the Verde Island Passage, the joint MPA and Bantay Dagat (Sea Watch) networks have been established to improve enforcement Passage-wide.

The Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP-MG), provincial PNP, the Bantay Dagat Network, and the provincial government of Batangas have entered into a memorandum of agreement that provides for coordination mechanisms to ensure effective enforcement. Similar partnerships have also been pursued in other corridors, through partnerships with agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.

Verde Passage's growing network of MPAs currently comprises more than 16,000 hectares, including at least three thousand hectares of "no take" zones, or areas where fishing activities are completely prohibited. These include a 1,050-hectare no take zone in Lubang Island, Occidental Mindoro, which is the biggest ?no take? area in the passage. It is also hailed as the first "climate-SMART" MPA, designed with climate change impacts and resiliency considerations in mind.

Nature-based tourism is also being pushed by the group as part of its conservation efforts.

"Tourism revenues already help support popular areas of the Seascape, such as the world-class diving sites in Verde Passage and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan," noted Trono. "We are hoping that tourism will also take off in the Sea Turtle Corridor, which hosts the largest aggregation of nesting green turtles in Southeast Asia."

For his part, Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali, president of the Governors' League of the Philippines, said, "The Sulu Sulawesi Seascape, a core of world's marine biodiversity, will become a vibrant source of investment on tourism, fisheries and skilled human resources trained and educated on community management of marine resources.?

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