A P2-million donation of the Philippine Army Finance Center Producers Integrated Cooperative will bolster the scientific research on the health of coral reefs in the southern towns of the Province, the Marine Conservation Philippines, an NGO based in Negros Oriental, said on Friday.
In an interview, Sóren Lund Knudsen, MCP program manager, said the donation which includes scuba diving gear and computers, will boost their efforts to get close to real-time data as they endeavor to slow down the decline of coral reefs and help boost food security.
“Our organization is doing a lot of underwater work for the Department of Environment & Natural Resources and local government units in southern Negros Oriental, and requires intensive scuba diving with about 22,000 to 24,000 dives done each year,” Knudsen said.
“The whole point of our organization, the big why is food security. We know that by 2050, most coral reefs in the Philippines will be decimated,” he added.
Knudsen said there are huge challenges ahead for them as they endeavor to postpone the decline in coral reefs, a natural habitat for fish.
The MCP is focusing its scientific work from Dumaguete City down south to Sta. Catalina, although occasionally they move up to the north, specifically in Bais City and Tanjay City.
What makes it interesting in the southern towns of Zamboanguita and Siaton is the so-called triangular synergy of three coexisting marine ecosystems: seagrass meadows, mangroves, and coral reefs, all closely adjacent.
“It is very, very rare in the Philippines, and is becoming increasingly rare. And when you have each of those marine ecosystems right next to each other, that is where the juvenile fish can go from one phase of their lives to the next,” Knudsen said.
In other parts of the country, this can no longer be found, and fish stock that populates the reefs are also on the decline, he said.
Seagrass beds and mangroves are doing fairly well in the southern towns of Negros Oriental due to increased awareness on the importance of these ecosystems and good legislation that provide them protection.
However, coral reefs are in a general decline, not just in southern Negros Oriental but in the nation at large, the MCP program manager noted.
“We are a nation relying on sea food that is primarily a protein source and we know that most of these sea food are from coastal fisheries,” he said.
The marine protected areas in the south are hugely helpful and very important to allow the juvenile fish to grow up to maturity, he added.
Knudsen explained that getting close to real time data would provide information to stakeholders on the current status of the coral reefs so that interventions and other actions could be made.
For instance, the MCP can monitor the possible presence of corallivore organisms that feed on corals and suggest closed-season for fish stock to repopulate “to increase fish yield in a sustainable fashion,” he said.
“Additionally scuba gear allow us to train government teams, both for disaster risk- reduction, LGU personnel for demarcation and enforcement of marine protected areas, and DENR and ENRD personnel to monitor coral reefs and contribute to ecological data sets of scientific value now and in the future.”
Meanwhile, PAFCPIC community development specialist Clarinda Muñoz said that one of the cooperative’s advocacies is environmental protection.
The Philippine Army Finance cooperative distributed food packs to about 100 Bantay Dagat (sea guardians) and fisherfolk from Zamboanguita and Siaton during Thursday’s donation to MCP. (Judy F. Partlow/PNA)