Sunday, May 29, 2011

Coral reefs destruction in the PHL alarming

by Minerva BC Newman, Sunday, May 29, 2011

CEBU, May 29 (PIA) - Environmentalist in Central Visayas are alarmed over the continuous destruction of the country’s coral reefs.

According to reports marine life area damages measured about twice the size of Manila and poachers harvested more than 21,000 pieces of black coral, killed hundreds of marine species including 161 endangered turtles with market value of about P35M.

Just last week, the Bureau of Customs in Cebu seized about P15M worth of black corals that prompted Malacanang to call on the public to boycott jewelries that are made from black, blue or red corals.

Based on media reports, poaching ravaged approximately 7,000 hectares of sea bed within the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea.

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and Committee on Climate Change filed a resolution to look into the said incident and called the attention of government agencies mandated to enforce Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of the Philippines.

According to the DENR there are estimates that one square kilometer of healthy coral reef can support as much as 35 metric tons of live fish.

Legarda lamented that of the 27,000 square kilometers of the country's existing corals only five percent (5%) are in excellent condition.

This situation is indeed very alarming considering that this kind of environmental exploitation has been banned for thirteen years.

A damage of this magnitude could have been prevented with the strict implementation of the Fisheries Code of the Philippines that Congress passed in 1998, environmentalists commented.

Under the Fisheries Code of 1998, a ban is imposed on the exploitation and exportation of corals as well as the fishing and taking of any rare, threatened and endangered species.

Mandated to enforce this code are the law enforcement officers of the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police and law enforcement officers of the LGUs and other government enforcement agencies, such as the various Bantay-Dagat teams of the local government units.

These corals do not just grow overnight. They take years to form. Destroying coral reefs is stealing the homes of marine life organisms, Legarda said.

“Our law enforcement agencies should go after the perpetrators of this crime against nature and ensure that our seas and marine species are safe from such cruelty,” the senator passionately added.

It is lamentable that a nation like the Philippines that is blessed with a rich biodiversity has been included as one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots largely because of these acts that destroy the country’s natural resources, environmentalists here said.

In conclusion, Legarda stressed the importance of authorized law enforcement officers to prevent violators to cause such irreparable harm to coral reefs and this should not be tolerated. (PIA-7/mbcn/ with reports from the Office of Senator Legarda)


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