Who cares about the corals, the turtles and the fishes?

Over the past few weeks, I have been writing about the importance of protecting the marine species in the country and how unique they are compared to the other parts of the world. I am beginning to sound like a broken record and I don’t like it. This is not my first post on what is happening to the marine biodiversity in the country, but it might be my last.

I have written it once, I am writing it again. The Philippines is the heart of the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle is an area which stretches from Okinawa in the north; Australia in the south; Fiji in the east; and the Indian Ocean to the west. Studies show that the Coral Triangle has 76% of the world’s coral species. And 6 of the world’s 7 species of marine turtles are found in the Coral Triangle. The center of the Coral Triangle is said to be the Verde Island Passage between Batangas and Mindoro. This is the reason why scientist from the University of the Philippines and the California Academy of Sciences have chosen the area for studies into Philippine marine biodiversity.

According to scientists from the UP and the CAS, the waters in the Philippines are unique in the sense that they seem to yield so many species of marine biodiversity. Dr. Terence Gosliner said in a press conference a month ago that “it’s truly remarkable, we find new species in every dive we take. It seems endless.” Gosliner is part of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition – a collaboration of scientists, educators, and students from the California Academy of Sciences and the University of the Philippines. The expedition has been in the country since April this year and they will be sharing their initial findings in a symposium at UP Diliman on June 8.

But, just as scientists, educators, and students study, appreciate, and protect our environment. The headlines on the imperiled state of marine biodiversity in the country seem to continuously flow.

Just a few days ago, a ship was held by the authorities in Cotabato after it was found trying to smuggle P 35 million pesos worth of corals and marine turtles. The authorities found “around 196 kilos of sea whip corals, 161 heads of preserved hawksbill and green turtles, 7,300 pieces of seashells, and 21, 169 pieces of black corals.” The extent of the damage in marine biodiversity in the area was so extensive that Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said, the poachers and thei financiers have “have practically robbed the present and future generations of Filipinos” of the treaures that the waters in and around the country hold.

Yesterday, 122 Vietnamese fishermen were caught poaching in by the Philippine Navy and the Philippine National Police Maritime Command in Barangay Malaking Ilog, Balabac, Palawan. The fishermen were caught pretending to be Filipinos by flying the Philippine flag on their boats. Unlike what is claimed by the Vietnamese fishermen, police Chief Superintendent Artemio Hicban said “they were caught well within our territorial waters, far from the Spratlys.” Authorities have yet to determine of the fishermen have also been catching protected and endangered species of marine biodiversity.

And then just a few weeks ago, a foreign ship passing through the country and carrying coal from Australia to India struck a protected coral reef area in Kiamba, Saranggani. The Panamanian-registered MV Double Prosperity was carrying 65,000 tons of coal when it struck Bakud Reef. The extent of the damage caused by the ship to the corals in the area has yet to be determined. But the 225-meter-ling ship’s hull got into much of the coral that it has been stuck. Provincial Governor MIguel Dominguez said that the owners of the ship must compensate the province regardless of the extent of the damage caused by the incident.

It pains me to know that these issues and incidents have been buried under the hullaballoo that is the Reproductive Health Bill. Already the RH Bill has been debated again and again, and again. And while much of the media attention is focused on Congress and the groups involved in the debate, our national patrimony has been repeatedly raped by foreign and domestic opportunists who prey on the weak capability of our navy to defend our seas and implement our laws. Then again, who cares, right?

Why care about his things when we are far away from the seas where these incidents occured? Why care when we can eat all the canned tuna and seafood dishes from the restaurants we go to? Why care when the destructionof these corals, turtles, and marine biodiversity hardly affects us at all?

Yep, why should I? Why should you?

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