THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it will take time before the Verde Island Passage is protected by legislation.
“We are still a bit far from reaching this point but right now we are in agreement that the Verde Island Passage needs to be protected,” DENR Assistant Secretary Marcial C. Amaro, Jr. said during a forum organized by the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development.
“Hopefully… (there) are other means that would provide for the enforcement of laws within the area and substantial increases in budget allocation to address the… conservation and protection of the (area),” Mr. Amaro added.
He said any measures must ensure the continued provision of ecosystem services “which sustain the livelihoods of the coastal communities and other dependents.”
The Verde Island Passage is a strait between Batangas and Mindoro Island noted for a high concentration of fish, coral, crustacean, mollusk, seagrass, and mangrove species, making it a leading biodiversity site.
The provinces of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon are located along the passage.
“We want emphasize the importance of the Verde Island Passage because of the connectivity dimension… what happens in the passage affects areas outside and beyond,” he said.
“Protecting the (passage) translates into safeguarding fisheries, coasts and marine environment,” he added.
Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said that the DENR and the governors of the five provinces expressed their support for legislation to protect the Verde Island Passage after an oil spill this year.
In late February, the MT Princess Empress sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, while carrying 800,000 liters of oil.
The DENR said that at least 21 locally managed marine protected areas were affected by the spill.
The environmental damage to the area was initially estimated at P7 billion. — Adrian H. Halili