Southern fishing ground’s protection sought

November 10, 2013

UNDERSCORING the importance of the Verde Island Passage, Sen. Loren Legarda has filed a measure declaring the highly productive fishing ground as a marine-protected area and ecological tourism zone.

The Verde Island Passage, a source of livelihood for millions of Filipinos, is a vital passageway and a national heritage that is teeming with unique marine species, Legarda, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said.

The Verde Island Passage marine corridor is a 1.14-million hectare stretch of water along portions of the provinces of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon. It is located right in the middle of the Coral Triangle and with the highest concentration of marine species in any region of the world.

According to Legarda, the sustainable use of the resources of the Verde Island Passage considering its economic potential should be ensured.

The Verde Island Passage has the potential to attract local and foreign tourists. Like the Tubbataha Reef, the Verde Island Passage is perfect for underwater adventures.

Legarda said there is an urgent need for the government and other stakeholders to coordinate their efforts toward the conservation of such national heritage.

Legarda noted that a 2005 joint study by marine biologists from the World Conservation Union and the Smithsonian Institute of the United States revealed that the Verde Island Passage is believed to be the “center of the marine shore fish biodiversity in the world.”

The same study also revealed that, despite existing laws, illegal fishing and unregulated shipping lanes still persist in the area, and that the continued degradation of its marine habitat could possibly lead to the extinction of species.

“The Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor is an important source of livelihood for over 7 million people who engage in fishing, aquaculture and tourism, among others. It likewise provides important passageway for both commercial and industrial ships travelling from Manila or Batangas going to the southern parts of the country and vice versa. It is a vital resource for the country but we must not abuse it,” Legarda explained.

On November 8, 2006, Executive Order 578 was issued to create a task force on Verde Island Passage to ensure the protection, conservation and sustainable use of the biological diversity in the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor and the formulation of the Verde Island Passage Management Plan.

Despite this intervention, the area remains under threat from over-exploitation and possible oil spills and other contaminants from industries along the port of Batangas, and by climate change, as well.

The proposed Verde Island Passage Act will create a Verde Island Passage Advisory Council that shall formulate policies and regulations to ensure its protection, conservation and sustainable use. A master plan shall be prepared by the council, which contains mechanisms and management strategies to ensure participatory decision-making among concerned local government officials and agencies.

Source: Business Mirror