Save Verde Island Passage

Marvill Web Development supports Ted Failon's movement against mining proposition at Lobo Batangas. Marvill Supports the fight for the destruction of our Natural Resources.

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MARINE scientists declared the Verde Island Passage as “the center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity in the world.”

Protecting Verde Island PassageThe scientists—Kent Carpenter, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature; and Victor Springer, of the Smithsonian Institution—recorded in 2005 a total of 1,736 overlapping marine species found over a 10-kilometer area, declaring that it has the highest concentration of marine life.

A vast expanse of water that separates Batangas on the main island of Luzon on one side, and the island provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon on the other, Verde Island Passage is an important fishing ground and a ship route that brings people, as well as goods and services, from one port to another. At the center, between Batangas and Mindoro, is Batangas city’s Verde Island, from which the strait was named after.

Numerous studies showed that more than half of the fish species found in the country can be found on the Verde Island Passage. It also has the most number of hard-coral species than any other areas in the world. In a 2013 study, entitled “State of Coast Report for Verde Island,” marine biologists recorded a total of 117 species of reef fish belonging to 35 families in just six small study sites around Verde Island.

Threats and more threats

However, because of the numerous threats to its ecosystem, the Verde Island Passage is also considered a marine-biodiversity hot spot.

Overpopulation, pollution, overfishing, illegal and destructive fishing, and harvesting of marine wildlife and habitat destruction have been identified as some of the serious threats to the strait. With white-sand beaches, pristine waters and the offer of the best diving experience in the world, a number of resorts have mushroomed around the Verde Island Passage, some as as early as the 1990s.

The resorts attract local and foreign tourists—while providing jobs and livelihood to coastal communities—thus, increasing human pressure to the strait’s environment and natural resources. While it is a highly productive fishing ground and now considered a popular tourist destination, the Verde Island Passage is also the main route of passenger and commercial ships, moving from one port to another.

As such, it remains highly vulnerable, not just to destructive fishing, but to shipping activities, as well.

Source: Business Mirror - Protecting Verde Island Passage

Sanctuary under threat

If you take a map of the Philippines, you would see a strip of water between Luzon and Mindoro Islands. This is called the Verde Island Passage (VIP) Marine Corridor, with an area of approximately 1.14 million hectares.

The corridor spans the provinces of Batangas, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque and Romblon. It has been identified by scientists as “the center of the center of marine shore fish diversity in the world.”

According to Conservation International, “more than half of the Philippines’ documented fish species can be found here. Numerous studies continue to yield discoveries of species that are new to science, further underscoring the global biological significance of this area.”

On December 18, 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Executive Order 578 – “establishing the national policy on biological diversity, prescribing its implementation throughout particularly in Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecosystem and the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor.”

The EO reiterates the constitutional provision protecting and advancing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology, and emphasizes that the Philippines is a party to various multilateral environmental agreements to conserve biological diversity.

This is, the EO adds, to ensure and secure the well-being of present and future generations of Filipinos.

And just last week, no less than the California Academy of Sciences announced they found more than 100 marine species in the Verde Island Passage, many of them previously unknown to science. These are “rare and new species of sea slugs, barnacles, urchins and mysterious live animals from dimly-lit, deep water reef building.”

The CAS exploration, done in both shallow and deep waters here, proves that indeed VIP is the center of the center of marine biodiversity.

“It’s thrilling to return here,” said Terry Gosliner, PhD, CAS senior curator. “This is one of the most outstanding regions of diversity in the world.” ***

The municipality of Lobo in Batangas is a coastal town that fronts the Verde Island Passage. Lobo Mountain, covered with dense forests, has historical significance because it is believed that General Miguel Malvar hid here before surrendering to the Americans, just to spare Filipinos from further suffering.

Beyond the mountain lie the beaches of Lobo, the waters there forming part of the Verde Island Passage.

Lobo’s residents have always taken pride in the beauty of their town. I myself, upon the invitation of a friend, have twice vacationed in this southern tip of the island of Luzon. The beach is beautiful, the water delightful, the surrounding scenery breathtaking – and the knowledge of the natural treasures hidden from the eye but are there, anyway, is just awe-inspiring.

Looking out into the water, one would think: “This is not a declared marine sanctuary for nothing.”

These days, though, the sanctuary is under threat. Egerton Gold Philippines, Inc. is applying with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a permit to undertake gold mining in Lobo through surface contour or open-pit mining. The DENR seems to be deliberating on the matter – even scheduling a public consultation on the issue – even as it should have rejected the idea outright because of Lobo’s proximity to the sanctuary.

The two proposed mining sites span a total of 262 hectares across three barangays. All of the coastal towns will be affected, as will be the mountain called Mabilog na Bundok.

The proponents of the project have themselves identified its direct and indirect impact on the community. Among the direct impact are the disturbance of existing flora and fauna, creeks and existing roads, as well as discharge of treated wastewater.

They also list the Verde Island Passage as among those that will be indirectly affected by the project, but are quick to say that they just included it because of its “environment, historical and tourism significance” even if it is distant from the project.

But consider this: During the construction phase, risks to water will be the disturbance of corals and mangroves, as well as accidental oil spills.

And during the operation phase, land erosion would be one of the main risks. The DENR itself, in a map published online at the Philippine Information Agency Web site (http://pia.gov.ph/gis/province.php?rid=4&id=19&lid=220) has found that the municipality of Lobo is susceptible to landslides. Imagine how this risk could be magnified by mining activity in the area. The people themselves would be in danger – and these are people who have for long taken pride in their town and in the natural treasures beyond their beaches.

The impact thus is not as sanitized and tame as the words on paper seem to imply. In fact, the warning signs are all there. Environment officials should rethink their options, especially since the 2006 EO is clear and equivocal about its role in the preservation of biodiversity.

The government must put its foot down. Not everything can be valued in pesos and cents. “Threatened sanctuary” is an oxymoron.

Source: Manila Standard Today - Sanctuary Under Threat by Adelle Chua

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