ALL over the country are quaint coastal towns, unknown to many people in Metro Manila, despite their rich biodiversity and exceptional beauty.
From Alaminos, Pangasinan to Mabini, Batangas; Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro to Cordova, Cebu; Del Carmen, Siargao to Medina, Misamis Oriental, all the way to the province of Surigao Del Norte, are shoreline destinations whose lush mountains are untainted, almost untouched.
Viewed from the sea, the ranges are a various mix of green hues patched with a few brown spots.
But what these coastal gems really offer is a plethora of underwater treasures: a wide array of healthy corals, both soft and hard; and a diverse population of marine life.
But despite being marine-protected areas (MPAs), many of the reefs and beaches there are prone to threats—such as chemical pollution and eutrophication, fisheries operations, habitat alteration, invasion of alien species and global climate change.
Now on its tenth year, the Metro Pacific Investments Foundation (MPIF) , the corporate social responsibility arm of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), is stepping up its efforts to preserve and conserve these reefs.
This March 2 to 4, Shore It Up! (SIU), MPIF’s environmental awareness initiative, will celebrate its anniversary with simultaneous underwater and coastal clean-up drives with the organization’s local government unit (LGU) partners in Alaminos, Mabini, Puerto Galera, Cordova, Del Carmen, Medina, and Surigao Del Norte.
The SIU program kicked off in 2009 to “shore up” the environment, “as a small step towards environmental awareness.”
“When Ondoy hit us in 2009, it became a wakeup call for us,” said Melody Del Rosario, MPIF President. “Our environment is deteriorating. We had to start somewhere. And with the Philippines surrounded with bodies of water, underwater and coastal clean-up, together with marine life conservation, became a good starting point for the SIU program.”
Starting with just 20 divers, Shore It Up! held its first underwater and shore clean-up activity in Anilao, Batangas. SIU has since then been the longest-running corporate-backed environmental awareness program.
“Easier said than done”
At a clean up held last year in Misamis Oriental, 2,120 volunteers—almost a hundred of whom were representatives from the MVP Group of Companies — collected 787 kilograms of garbage from the three dive sites, and from 7 km of coastline.
“Medina is the birthplace of the first batch of Marine Protection and Inspection Custodians,” said del Rosario said, referring to the volunteers.
Experts, like Jake Miranda, a scuba-diving instructor who specializes in cave diving, shared their knowledge in marine protection to the locals.
Miranda led the assembly and deployment of marker buoys to allow boats to dock near the reef without the need for an anchor, which may damage corals.
“The fight to preserve the environment is easier said than done. It is a life-long quest. In a small way we started protecting our marine biology in Medina,” Mayor Donato Chan said. During its three-day program, Metro Pacific led the investiture of 200 junior environmental scouts, which are young ambassadors of change in their respective communities.
Volunteers from MPIC taught students about the significance of putting prime importance to rescuing, restoring and reviving the country’s bodies of water.
Being an archipelago, the Philippines boasts of a rich marine biodiversity. It sits at the apex of the Coral Triangle, recognized as the global center for marine biodiversity, along with Papua New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.
As the apex of such a coral “center”, the Philippines is home to a diverse species of corals, seagrass beds, mangrove and beach forests, fisheries, invertebrates, seaweeds and marine mammals.
These are home to at least 2,000 species of fish 5,000 species of clams and other mollusks and crustaceans; 22 species of whales and dolphins; more than 900 species of seaweed; and more than 400 species of corals.
For the past ten years, MPIC has taken the cudgels to help rehabilitate these precious marine resources. Shore It Up, the country’s longest-running corporate-backed environment program, has helped remove tons of garbage from Philippine waters—from Batangas to Subic, to Siargao, among others—and set up mangrove centers in the country. It has also ventured into giant-clam rearrangement, seeding and artificial-reef restoration.
“Over the years, Shore It Up had 75,000 volunteers, 3,000 junior environmental scouts and two mangrove centers,” del Rosario said. “We’re making sure that we have a contribution that is lasting—that is sustainable.”
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