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Legarda: Conservation of the coral reefs important in sustaining life and livelihood of Filipinos

June 9, 2021

In observance of the Coral Triangle Day today, three-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda stressed the importance of conserving and preserving the country’s coral reefs to sustain the basic needs of Filipinos and promote livelihood.

“Beyond aesthetics, the degradation of coral reefs directly affects our daily lives, specifically our health, food supply, and livelihood. Thus, we have to continuously educate our people about its vital role in the continuity of life in the sea,” Legarda said.

“They protect coastlines from wave and storm erosion and function as nurseries and habitats for thousands of marine species. It is estimated that one square kilometer of healthy coral reef can support as much as 35 metric tons of live fish,” Legarda added.

The Philippines takes pride in having the second largest coral reef environment in Southeast Asia, which is home to a diverse number of species. According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Philippines has 915 reef fish species and more than 400 scleractinian coral species, 12 of which are endemic. However, destructive fishing practices and improper waste disposal contribute to the massive reef degradation that affects the abundance and health of the marine life.

“Our country, an archipelago located within the coral triangle, is blessed with a very rich biodiversity characterized by extensive coral reefs, sea grass beds and dense mangroves. Unfortunately, our overdependence on our seas and on our natural environment, has greatly contributed to the worsening state of the country’s marine ecosystems, which has not only led to the extinction of marine species, but has also been detrimental to the state of the environment, of the sources of our food supply, livelihood and even related industries such as tourism and trade,” Legarda lamented.

The three-term Senator said that waste management problem was even magnified by the need of Filipinos for take-out orders and online deliveries during the imposition of community quarantines, and the need to use disposable face masks and other personal protective equipment following health protocols to minimize contamination and further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Just recently, news reports showed plastic wastes found in the belly of a fish bought in a market in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

“With many Filipinos having to resort to take-out orders and deliveries that commonly use disposable plastic containers and utensils to prevent the spread of the virus, millions of single-use plastics are irresponsibly disposed of, adding up to the proliferation of plastic waste that could lead to an even greater environmental and public health crisis in the future,” Legarda said.

Legarda, author of landmark environmental laws such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), is co-author of House Bill No. 9147 or the Single-Use Plastic Products Regulation Act in the House of Representatives that mandates the phased regulation of single-use plastic production, importation, distribution and use in the country. Legarda further stated that for the country to effectively attain economic growth and climate-resilient development, the protection and conservation of the environment should be mainstreamed in the government’s development agenda.

“We need our seas for us to live, for us to sustain our basic needs and for us to improve the nation’s growth and development. Coral rehabilitation would actually be the best poverty-alleviation measure which will supply food for all Filipinos and promote more livelihoods and income. The environment is threatened by the pressures of modern society and by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we depend on our marine environment and its resources, let these crises challenge all of us to be actively involved in the conservation and preservation of our coral reefs,” Legarda concluded.***