November 29, 2023

DENR, 5 provinces want law declaring Verde Island Passage as protected area

By Jun Talusan

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and five provinces are seeking for a law declaring the Verde Island Passage (VIP) as protected area.

DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said they joined calls for the VIP or the so-called Amazon of the Seas to be declared as a protected area by law.

Loyzaga met with governors of the five provinces surrounding VIP and they agreed to push for the declaration of VIP as protected area.

Tne five provinces include Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon.

Governors Hermilando Mandanas of Batangas and Presbitero Velasco Jr. of Marinduque also discussed the threat to VIP of the recent oil spill.

According to Loyzaga, VIP is currently a marine protected area, but the governors wanted it to be a legislated protected area.

“That will involve five provinces moving together to get this whole area legislated. Why is it important? Critical reefs, critical seagrass beds, mangroves, fisheries, these are spawning areas for fish, livelihood is dependent on that, and it has an implication on climate change as well,” Loyzaga said.

A part of the Coral Triangle, the VIP is regarded by experts as the “center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity” in the world.

It is home to more than 300 coral species, 170 fish species and thousands of marine organisms such as sharks and turtles, and provides livelihood and other benefits to over two million people.

The marine corridor is surrounded by the said five provinces.

“This highest level of protection for what is touted as the center of the world’s marine biodiversity will keep VIP as a sanctuary to thousands of marine species and off limits to business activities that will threaten its pristine ecosystem,” the DENR secretary said.

Last April 25, Loyzaga also met with the Board members of the Verde Island Passage Marine Protected Area Network and Law Enforcement Network to discuss the development of a VIP-wide Disaster Prevention and Response Plan. 

“Considering its mandate, the DENR is committed to strengthening the protection and management of the VIP as a priority conservation area,” she said.

The meeting was also attended by DENR Assistant Secretary and Biodiversity Management Bureau OIC Director Marcial Amaro Jr.; and representatives from Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro, Department of Agriculture, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group, Philippine Coast Guard, and Conservation International Philippines.