Congress Funds Nat’l Coral Restoration Program

December 16, 2015

Senator Loren Legarda today said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will commence a nationwide coral restoration program next year after Congress has approved its funding.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said she introduced funding for the National Coral Restoration Program because “as an archipelagic nation with 240 million hectares of marine area, the protection of marine ecosystems, primarily through massive coral restoration, should be a priority of government.”

Under the proposed 2016 national budget, Php500 million has been allocated for the coral restoration program. The DENR will implement the project based on current programs, such as the sustainable coral reef ecosystem management program (SCREMP).

According to the DENR, the Philippines has 240 million hectares of marine area based on the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Ideally, coral reefs in the 60 million hectares of marine area around the country, the area which is considered possible for fishing including seagrass beds, tidal flats, should be in excellent condition.

Since coral reefs are the food basket for the fish, the destruction of coral reefs would mean less fish population, which would translate to lower fish catch and lower protein for the people. It is estimated that 80 percent of the animal protein requirement of Filipinos come from our seas.

One of the main challenges is the continuous coral bleaching. According to DENR, every time there is a monitored heating of the bottom of the ocean, they expect casualty to the corals.

“This shows the direct correlation between climate change and hunger. Extreme heat, especially in the next two years, will result in coral bleaching due to the warming of the surface temperature of our water. Coral bleaching leads to destruction of corals and translates to lower fish population. Clearly, climate change affects our fish catch,” said Legarda, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Climate Change.

“The degradation of our marine ecosystems has always been a gut issue as it pushes poverty deeper in the coastal communities through loss of livelihood, vulnerability to natural hazards, hunger and even health problems. We must all work together to bring back our coral reefs and the whole marine ecosystem to excellent condition so that our seas can benefit us in a sustainable manner,” Legarda concluded.