Legarda: Enough of the destruction of our coral reefs

June 16, 2013

Senator Loren Legarda today reiterated her call on the Philippine Coast Guard to be more vigilant in guarding Philippine waters following another incident of a foreign vessel running aground a coral reef within the country’s waters.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that the MV Unicorn Lodger, with 18 Vietnamese crew onboard, ran aground in the area of Sambauan Island, Maripipi, Biliran on Thursday night.

Further investigation on the incident is being conducted, but a news report quoting an officer of the municipal government indicated that about 270 square meters of coral reef in the area was destroyed.

“Early in the year, the Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site, was damaged after the USS Guardian of the US Navy and a Chinese fishing vessel ran aground. Barely have our reefs recovered from that incident and here comes another foreign vessel, inflicting damages on our coral reefs in Maripipi. Conducting investigations, one after another, and deporting the culprits is not the solution to the problem,” Legarda said in frustration over the seeming helplessness of our Coast Guard in protecting our maritime zones.

She lamented that while the world’s marine resources should be safer in view of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a legal instrument that binds countries to principles and a framework to address issues of marine conservation, many of the world’s marine resources, including the Philippines’, continue to suffer from the irresponsible ways of those who own and operate maritime vessels.

“It is lamentable that we have another incident of coral reef destruction caused by a foreign vessel. Beyond investigation and the imposition of penalties, we need to start focusing our efforts on preventive measures. No amount of penalties can immediately bring back the damaged corals that took decades to mature. Without corals, our food security will be threatened. If need be, let us call the attention of the concerned parties to the UNCLOS, using the appropriate channels, to seek their cooperation and support toward putting a stop to these destructive incidents,” Legarda said.

“We may not be able to guard every inch of the entire coast and Philippine territorial waters, but we have to find ways to strengthen our capacities to guard and protect our marine environment. In the meantime, this incident needs to be resolved in ways that the responsible parties will be made to answer for the destruction they have caused. Enough of the “slap on the hand” approach. We need more grit and teeth in the enforcement of both local and international laws,” Legarda said.