Legarda Wants Massive Coral Restoration like Nat’l Greening Program

September 18, 2015

Senator Loren Legarda said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should develop a major marine conservation program, particularly on coral restoration, like the National Greening Program (NGP).


Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, made the statement during the recent Senate hearing for the DENR’s proposed 2016 budget.


“I have always espoused for the protection of our forests. But in terms of ecosystems, it looks like we do not give as much attention and resources to our marine ecosystem—our corals, seagrass beds, tidal flats,” said Legarda as she noted that only five percent of our corals are in good condition.


According to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, the Philippines has 240 million hectares of marine area based on the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The country’s land area is only 30 million hectares. 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.


Paje explained that 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.


Legarda said, “This shows the direct correlation between climate change and hunger. Extreme heat, especially in the next two years, will result to coral bleaching due to the warming of the surface temperature of our water. Coral bleaching leads to destruction of corals and translate to lower fish population. Clearly, climate change does not only affect rice production but also our fish catch.”


The Senator said that the DENR should immediately address the worsening state of the country’s marine ecosystems by creating a major program for coral restoration just like the NGP.


Earlier this year, Legarda launched the video documentary, Antique: Coral Restoration Project, which discusses coral restoration efforts in the municipalities of Anini-y and Pandan in the Province of Antique.


The documentary, which was produced by the DENR, in partnership with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), highlights the Filipinnovation Coral Restoration Program and the Restoring Coral Reefs in Pandan, Antique for Improved Fisheries Productivity under the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).


“We need not reinvent the wheel. We can make the framework of the national coral restoration program based on current programs, including the DENR’s sustainable coral reef ecosystem management program (SCREMP),” said Legarda.


“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.