THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the governors of five provinces expressed their support for legislative action to protect the Verde Island Passage.
“It is home to more than 300 coral species, 170 fish species and thousands of marine organisms such as sharks and turtles; provides livelihood and other benefits to over million people,” Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said in a statement.
The Verde Island Passage is a strait between Batangas and Mindoro island, in the middle of which lies Verde Island.
According to Ms. Loyzaga, the passage is currently a marine protected area, but governors want it to be a “legislated protected area.”
The provinces adjoining the passage are Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon.
“This highest level of protection for what is touted as the center of the world’s marine biodiversity will keep the passage as a sanctuary to thousands of marine species and off limits to business activity that will threaten its pristine ecosystem,” Ms. Loyzaga said.
In late April, Ms. Loyzaga discussed the development of the disaster prevention plan with board members of the Verde Island Passage Marine Protected Area Network and Law Enforcement Network.
“Considering its mandate, the DENR is committed to strengthening the protection and management of the passage as priority conservation area,” Ms. Loyzaga told the board.
The DENR is exploring options for filing compensation claims in the wake of the February oil spill off Oriental Mindoro, following the sinking of the tanker MT Princess Empress.
MT Princess Empress sank on Feb. 28 off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro while carrying 800,000 liters of fuel oil.
Ms. Loyzaga initially estimated the cost of the environmental damage caused by the oil spill at P7 billion. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera