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The protection and conservation of the country’s rich coral reef system takes center stage as the Philippines observes May as the Month of the Ocean (MOO), according to Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.


“The environmental and economic benefits of coral reefs cannot be overstated. Often called the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs are important for ocean health and human communities that live nearby,” Cimatu said.


Cimatu expressed hope the MOO celebration would help increase awareness on the threats to coral reefs and support for conservation, research and management efforts, especially since it coincides with the observance of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR).


IYOR, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and threats to their sustainability and to motivate people to take action to protect them, was launched officially in the Philippines last February. The event was initiated by over 60 member countries of the International Coral Reef Initiative.


According to Cimatu, the Philippines should take the lead in the protection of coral reefs considering that millions of Filipinos depend on them and other marine ecosystems for both food and income.


He noted that some of the major economic sectors such as fisheries, tourism, trade and transportation are dependent on these ecosystems.


“Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses. They also provide shelter to coastlines from the effects of waves and tropical storms. They also provide shelter for many marine organisms,” Cimatu said.


The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), kicked off the national celebration of the MOO on Apo Island in Negros Oriental province last May 4.


This was followed by an activity called “Sea to Believe Project,” organized by the BBMB on May 12-13, which sought to build a group of responsible youth leaders who will promote responsible and sustainable behavior for the oceans and the environment as a whole.


The BMB also launched a marine biodiversity photo competition for both amateur and professional photographers. The contest aims to raise public awareness, appreciation and understanding of coral reefs.


BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said one of the highlights of the celebration is the conduct of a seminar on biodiversity-friendly livelihood for women residing in coastal communities in order to acquaint them with such alternatives.


“The seminar aims to instill behavioral change among the participants and be the champions of ocean conservation in their homes or communities,” Rodriguez said.


This year’s MOO adopts the IYOR’s theme, “Together for Our Reefs.” The MOO celebration is pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 57 issued in 1999. ###

 

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