Speech: VIP for VIP

September 27, 2021



“The center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity in the world.”

This is how marine scientists call the 10-mile-wide strait Verde Island Passage or VIP that separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro. It is so rich in marine life, it is internationally acknowledged as the richest marine biodiversity area in the entire Coral Triangle. The Passage is known to provide food, livelihood, and other benefits to over two million people.

But despite being considered as one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, it is threatened by the increasingly unsustainable economic activities in the area: plastic pollution, illegal and destructive fishing practices, commercial vessels discharging pollutants into the water, and irresponsible tourism. The worsening climate is also contributing to the destruction of the VIP.

Scientific research has shown that with climate change, our country’s marine biodiversity and fishing industry are in grave threat. By 2050, ninety percent of our coral reefs will have died or degraded. Keeping global warming low until the end of the century could allow our coral reserves to recover but only as much as 20 percent.

Having said this, urgent marine and coastal protection is a much-needed response.

I know that with the mix of expert minds and courageous hearts gathered here today, we are bound to succeed in our collective mission of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity in addressing climate change.

The case of Verde Island Passage is not an isolated case; it is the state of most marine ecosystems not only here in the Philippines, but across regions of the globe. This is the crucial time to act, or everything will be lost in time.

As long as there is hope to save our corals and other marine life from extinction, we should hold on to it.

As long as there is a chance to stop global warming at a level that lets humanity survive and thrive, we should seize it.

As a lawmaker, environmentalist and a climate champion for decades, expect that I am one with the Protect VIP and all of the advocates gathered here today in pursuing concrete actions to revive our ailing ecosystems.

We have already enacted numerous landmark laws that protect the marine environment and promote resilience, such as the Marine Pollution Control Law, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, Climate Change Act, and the People’s Survival Fund Act, to name a few; but greater action from our institutions, local governments, stakeholders, and individuals is needed to bring life into these policies.

After today, I hope that more people will be inspired to adhere to our environmental laws, pursue efforts like this, and rally behind the advocacy of caring for our environment towards a more secure and sustainable future for all.

Maraming salamat at isang luntiang umaga sa inyong lahat!