The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the governors of five concerned provinces are calling for the declaration of Verde Island Passage (VIP), regarded by experts as the “center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity” in the world, as a protected area.
"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," DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said in a statement.
According to Loyzaga, the VIP is currently a marine protected area but the governors want it to be a "legislated protected area".
“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,” added Loyzaga.
The marine corridor is surrounded by the provinces of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon, according to the DENR.
Loyzaga, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas, and Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr. agreed to push the call during their meeting on the threat of the recent oil spill in Oriental Mindoro.
“Since the early part of 2020 just before the pandemic, there are a number of proposed development projects like submarine cable/pipe laying and jetty construction, to be implemented within the globally significant VIP,” Loyzaga said.
“With this, there is a need to study what possible regulations may be imposed to ensure that there is a balance between development and conservation,” she added. —Joviland Rita/ VAL, GMA Integrated News