PH marks banner year as ‘protector’ of Coral Triangle

2018 proved to be a banner year for the Philippines as a member of the six-nation partnership to protect the Coral Triangle after making significant headway in effectively managing its marine protected areas (MPAs) and fisheries.

“The year 2018 was a good one for the Philippines in terms of our efforts and achievements as a member of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF),” said Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

CTI-CFF is a multilateral partnership of six countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and the Philippines—working together to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources in the region known as the “global center of marine biodiversity” by addressing crucial issues such as food security and climate change.

According to Rodriguez, the country has delivered on its commitment to create more MPAs with the enactment of Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act, earlier this year.

The E-NIPAS Law has brought to 43 the total number of nationally-managed MPAs and 1,816 locally managed MPAs, all covering 1.4 percent of the country’s total sea area.

“One of the milestones of the Philippines is the legislation of additional 10 (nationally managed) MPAs under the (E-NIPAS Act),” Rodriguez said.

MPAs are areas in seas and oceans where human activity is regulated for conservation and protection of the natural resources within them.

Rodriguez also reported the full implementation of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program, which covered activities such as habitat assessment for the NIPAS MPAs, MPA networking technical assistance for local government units, support to 25 MPA networks and some 200 biodiversity-friendly enterprises, and inclusion of ocean acidification baseline study in select MPAs.

She added that coastal stability assessment, mapping, impact monitoring, resiliency studies and updating of coral reef baseline data were conducted in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise.

Other accomplishments of the country in MPA management include the establishment of a two million hectare MPA in northeast Palawan, approval of MPA management plan for Davao Gulf, and creation of five-province MPA and MPA network within the Verde Island Passage, which has been dubbed as the “center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity in the world.” The five provinces are Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro.

Rodriguez noted that effective MPA management is one of the five targets under the country’s National Plan of Action (NPOA) for the CTI-CFF.

“Among the NPOA goals, that of the MPA truly mirrors how much we have achieved in terms of implementation and regional cooperation,” Rodriguez pointed out.

Aside from MPA management, Rodriguez said the country was also successful in adopting the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM), another goal set by the Philippines in its NPOA.

She said the country had intensified its effort to combat illegal fishing nationwide, with the end view of improving food security and livelihood.

To strengthen law enforcement on the country’s coastal waters, Rodriguez said a Committee on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing was created through Executive Order No. 154.

Of the 24 EAFM programs initiated, Rodriguez said six have been completed while 18 are on-going.

The BMB chief said the Philippines also made progress on its 3 other NPOA goals, namely: establishment of seascapes, achieving climate change adaptation measures, and improved status of threatened species.

The Philippines also ends 2018 on a high note with its successful hosting of the CTI-CFF Ministerial Meetings and Senior Officials Meeting on December 9-15, which served as culminating activities for the country’s two-year chairmanship of CTI-CFF.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, called for continued support for the country’s initiatives to protect its coastal and marine resources.

“We look forward to the continued support of our development partners as we embark on the progress of the next Regional Plan of Action (RPAO). This then leads us to tackle issues on marine debris, nature-based ecotourism, blue carbon, and sustained financing for the CTI-CFF goals,” Rodriguez said. ### 

DENR to rehabilitate Manila Bay using same strategy as Boracay

Buoyed by the success of the Boracay rehabilitation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is preparing to embark on a highly ambitious and more complicated endeavor: restoring Manila Bay to its pristine state.

Although Manila Bay is known for having one of the most beautiful sunsets, its waters are considered the most polluted in the country due to domestic sewage, toxic industrial effluents from factories and shipping operations, and leachate from garbage dumps, among others.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said he was keen to have Manila Bay rehabilitated, restored and maintained to a level fit for swimming, skin diving and other contact forms of recreation.

“We are preparing for an all-out strategy to bring the coliform concentration in Manila Bay to a safe level so that millions of people who reside in the bay region and neighboring areas will enjoy its waters and marine resources without fear of getting sick,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu said the DENR hopes to replicate what has been achieved in Boracay which, prior to undergoing six-month rehabilitation, was described as a “cesspool” by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

The environment chief said the government will show the same level of political will in cleaning up the bay that spans three major regions—National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon and CALABARZON or Region 4A—as it did in Boracay, a tiny island in Western Visayas.

A 2017 report by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau showed that the fecal coliform level in Manila Bay reached as high as over 330 million most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters. The safe level is only 100 MPN/100ml.

According to Cimatu, part of the DENR’s strategy is to ensure the compliance with environmental laws among all local government units (LGUs) surrounding Manila Bay.

“I am calling on all LGUs to step up their efforts in cleaning up the bay because it is their own constituents who will benefit (from a rehabilitated Manila Bay),” Cimatu said.

He revealed that a Manila Bay Command Center under the DENR NCR regional office would be created to oversee the zonal operations of four field offices to be set up in six coastal cities of Metro Manila, namely: Malabon-Navotas, Manila, Pasay-Parañaque, and Las Piñas.

These field offices would be manned by personnel, who would closely coordinate with city or municipal environment officers to ensure that cleanup activities and programs are being carried out and sustained.

To address problems on human waste arising from the presence of informal settlers along the bay, the DENR is looking at technologies that would treat water of pollutants, whether directly discharged into the bay or through toilets.

Cimatu said the DENR would also seek assistance from law enforcement agencies in going after violators of environmental laws, especially those who discharge untreated wastewater into the bay.

In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a continuing writ of mandamus ordering 13 government agencies to clean up Manila Bay and restore its water quality to Class SB, or safe for recreational activities such as swimming.

Class SB waters are also suitable for commercial propagation of shellfish and as spawning areas for milkfish and other similar species. ### 

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