FIVE PROVINCES AND NATIONAL AGENCIES JOIN FORCES TO PROTECT AND CONSERVE THE VERDE ISLAND PASSAGE

This move will benefit over two million people who depend upon this area known as the global epicenter of marine shorefish biodiversity.

 

Batangas City, 6 April 2017 - Five provinces along the Verde Island Passage and national agencies today committed to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that will strengthen the protection and management of what is considered as the global epicenter of marine shorefish biodiversity.

The MOA establishes the Verde Island Passage (VIP) Marine Protected Area Network (MPAN) and Law Enforcement Network (LEN) which will ensure the protection and conservation of the VIP. These networks enable the national agencies and local government units to work together to conserve, protect, improve, and manage the coastal and marine environment along the VIP.

The VIP is home to over 1,736 species of fish, 338 species of corals, and thousands of other marine species. The terrestrial and marine area of about 2 million hectares support about 2 million people from the five provinces around it, ensuring food security, and protecting communities against the effects of climate change. Moreover, VIP serves as the backbone of the local economy providing revenues from coastal tourism, fisheries, and shipping through the international ports of Batangas, Manila, and Subic Bay.

The governors of the five provinces surrounding the VIP – Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Oriental Mindoro, and Occidental Mindoro – committed to uphold the landmark agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). Attending for the provinces and the government agencies, or on their behalf, were Senior Board Member Honorable Rowena S. Africa of Batangas, Board Member Honorable Allan H. Nepomuceno of Marinduque, Governor Eduardo C. Firmalo, M.D. of Romblon, Ms. Marilyn Alcañices of the Provincial Agriculture Office of Oriental Mindoro, Governor Mario Gene J. Mendiola of Occidental Mindoro, Director Arcenio N. Tanchuling of DENR CALABARZON, Director Milagros Morales of BFAR Region 2, Chief Superintendent Noel G. Constantino of the Philippine National Police, and Captain Julius Caesar Victor Marvin V. Lim of the Philippine Coast Guard.

Signing as witnesses to the ceremony were UNDP Philippines Country Director Titon Mitra, the SMARTSeas PH Project Manager Dr. Vincent V. Hilomen, PEMSEA Director Adrian Ross, industry partners Mr. Ramon G. Araneta of First Gen Corporation and Ms. Karen Agabin of Malampaya Foundation, the Marine Science Institute with Dr. Vanessa B. Rodriguez, and CI-Philippines Country Executive Director Enrique A. Nuñez, Jr.

The creation of the Verde Island Passage Marine Protected Area Network and Law Enforcement Network were facilitated by the Conservation International Philippines Foundation, Inc. through partnership with DENR–Biodiversity Management Bureau on the SMARTSeas PH Project, which is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“The natural wealth of the passage, now threatened by overfishing, pollution, and climate change needs to be protected and sustainably harnessed. There were, and are, many initiatives in different parts of the passage, but what is missing is something that connects all these efforts. We are a step closer to that with the strong intent of the governors and key national and local officials to collaborate,” said Titon Mitra, UNDP Country Director in the Philippines.

“We are confident that this landmark agreement will pave the way not only for a strong network of marine protected areas, but also towards financial sustainability where the government and private sector invest for the good of the people and the environment,” Mr Mitra said.

Conservation International Philippines’ Country Executive Director Enrique Nuñez explained, “this collaborative work in the VIP over the last 10 years has been built on the commitment and diligent work of the local and national governments, NGOs, the academe and local communities. As such, this agreement will benefit the well-being of local communities — especially fishers — directly, as their food sources and livelihoods will be better secured.

Further, Nuñez explained that VIP partners are now well-informed about the ecological and socio-economic importance of the Verde Island Passage after having facilitated the conduct of further scientific studies on biodiversity, fisheries and climate change. CI also helped develop coastal and marine plans; as well as initiating capacity building and livelihood activities among LGUs and community groups who are taking the lead to conserve their coastal and marine resources.  Nuñez believes that “the Agreement will encourage the VIP MPA Network partners to create a stronger law enforcement and commit to an improved management of their valuable natural capital –the seas of the VIP.”

Written by Conservation International, Philippines

Date: 06 April 2017