Con­nect­ing com­mu­ni­ties and ma­rine con­ser­va­tion

Business Mirror - - GREEN MONDAY -

THE Philip­pines is home to an un­par­al­leled va­ri­ety of ma­rine life— and the gen­tle du­gong is among the most lovable. Malita, a sea­side com­mu­nity in Davao del Sur, has be­come a sanc­tu­ary for th­ese gen­tle ma­rine mam­mals, which keep sea­grass beds healthy through their con­stant brows­ing. Food fish, such as sama­ral and dang­git in­habit sea- grass beds.

Also known as sea cows, dugongs were once com­mon through­out the coun­try—un­til de­struc­tive fish­ing and coastal de­vel­op­ment de­stroyed the vi­tal sea- grass beds they needed to thrive. By 1990s the gen­tle an­i­mals be­came rare sights.

Dugongs are among the flag­ship species pro­tected by the World Wide Fund for Na­ture ( WWF-Philip­pines) and are clas­si­fied by the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture as vul­ner­a­ble. The fate of the coun­try’s dugongs lie in the hands of sea­side com­mu­ni­ties, like Malita.

Project Con­nect

IN 2011 lead­ing wire­less ser­vices provider Smart Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, PLDT’s wire­less unit, part­nered with WWF-Philip­pines to en­cour­age cit­i­zens to help save dugongs and other crea­tures in the Davao Gulf, which in­cludes Malita.

Smart im­ple­mented its Textto- Do­nate ser­vice, an SMS- based do­na­tion plat­form that em­pow­ers over 46 mil­lion Smart and Talk ‘ N Text sub­scribers to con­trib­ute to WWF’s bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion pro­grams us­ing their mo­bile phones. Funds raised through this plat­form were used to con­duct en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion ses­sions for stu­dents, par­ents and com­mu­nity members in Malita. Project Con­nect high­lights the con­nec­tion be­tween peo­ple and na­ture—and how car­ing for the sea en­sures fish for all, for­ever.

“Apart from help­ing in­crease en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness, we hope to be able to urge com­mu­ni­ties to take ac­tion and do their part as stew­ards of the en­vi­ron­ment through our Project Con­nect learn­ing ses­sions,” Smart Pub­lic Af­fairs Group Head Ra­mon Is­berto said.

WWF- Philip­pines taught 600 stu­dents from the Mar­i­ano Per­alta Na­tional High School and Fish­ing Vil­lage Na­tional High School about en­dan­gered species re­cently. The ses­sion fo­cused on the unique­ness of ma­rine species, like du­gong, whale sharks, sea tur­tles and dol­phins; the species’ vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to hu­man ac­tions; and the re­spon­si­bil­ity of hu­mans in con­serv­ing our shared home.

The stu­dents were also taught the im­por­tance of tech­nol­ogy in re­search and con­ser­va­tion, in­for­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion, as well as in res­cu­ing stranded species.

Com­mu­nity members of Barangay Fish­ing Vil­lage were also treated to a les­son on April 22 to cel­e­brate Earth Day. The ses­sion trained the com­mu­nity to re­spond prop­erly to ma­rine mam­mal strand­ings, which cause the deaths of thou­sands of whales, dol­phins and dugongs yearly.

Teacher Maye be­lieves aware­ness is very im­por­tant for to­day’s con­ser­va­tion stew­ards. “When we start to make chil­dren and com­mu­nity members ap­pre­ci­ate how the relationship of na­ture and hu­mans ben­e­fit each an­other, we cre­ate a so­ci­ety of in­formed cit­i­zens who can be front­lin­ers in pro­tect­ing what this coun­try should be proud of.”

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