MERRY month of May is not only a month of fiestas. Do you know that it is also the “Month of the Ocean”? Presidential Proclamation No. 57 issued in 1999 made it so to stress the importance of conservation, protection and sustainable management of our coastal and ocean resources. Sounds too broad?
We can be more specific and start with the corrals. Can’t we develop a major marine conservation program, particularly on coral restoration, like the National Greening Program? We have always heard of campaigns for the protection of our forests. But in terms of ecosystems, it looks like we do not give as much attention and resources to our marine ecosystem — our corals, seagrass beds, tidal flats.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Philippines has 240 million hectares of marine area based on the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The country’s land area is only 30 million hectares. Ideally, coral reefs in the 60 million hectares of marine area around the country, the area which is considered TOMORROW, possible for fishing including seagrass beds, tidal flats, should be in excellent condition.
Since coral reefs are the food basket for the fish, the destruction of coral reefs would mean less fish population, which would translate to lower fish catch and lower protein for the people. It is estimated that 80 percent of the animal protein requirement of Filipinos come from our seas. DENR rightly noted that we are heavily reliant on the bounty of healthy oceans and seas for food, livelihood, navigation, recreation, trade, and for sustenance. We must therefore realize that the degradation of our marine ecosystems is a gut issue and pushes poverty deeper in the coastal communities through loss of livelihood, vulnerability to natural hazards, hunger and even health problems.
As stewards of nature, we must all work together to bring back our coral reefs and the whole marine ecosystem to excellent condition so that our seas can benefit us in a sustainable manner. We can start by being responsible with our garbage and refrain from dumping it in our seas or oceans.