Destruction of coral reefs in WPS could cost PH $350K per hectare yearly
MANILA, Philippines – If the destruction of the coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) will continue, it may cost the Philippines around $350,000 per hectare yearly, an official from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) said Wednesday.
UP-MSI Deputy Director for Research Dr. Deo Onda said the losses would come in the form of lack of access to the benefits or services provided by coral reefs like food, climate regulation, and tourism.
“Anong nawawala sa atin? ‘Pag meron kang poaching, harvesting, and degradation, mawawala ‘yong ibang services (What do we stand to lose? Poaching, harvesting, and degradation can lead to loss of these services). All in all, if we don’t have access, we are losing $350,000 (worth) of services per hectare per year,” Onda said during a forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City.
“Isang hektarya pa lang ‘yan (That’s only for one hectare),” he added.
Onda explained that they used a system derived from a study by Associate Professor Rudolf de Groot of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, which specified the WPS’ services and financial worth per square hectare per year into four parts.
These are provisional services (worth $55,724), which include sourcing of food and raw materials; regulating services ($171,478) or waste treatment and erosion prevention; habitat services ($16,210) for breeding fish species; and cultural services ($108,837) like recreation.
Onda said banning Filipino fisherfolk from venturing into the WPS to prevent further destruction would not have any effect because poaching activities continue.
“Kapag ni-limit natin ‘yong access, hindi natin pinayagan ‘yong mga mangingisda natin na pumunta sa West Philippine Sea, mawawala ‘yong provisional services na ‘yan, kasi wala na tayong makukuha,” Onda said.
(If we limit the access of fishermen in the West Philippine Sea we will lose because we cannot get provisions like food and raw materials.)
“Pero hindi naman kasi ‘yong access ‘yong mawawala sa atin, nasisisira ‘yong habitat (It’s not just about losing access; the habitat is being destroyed),” he added.
Onda further explained that corals serve as breeding grounds for fishes in the biodiversity-rich WPS, which supposedly account for 25 percent of all marine species in the whole world. These are brought by currents to the country’s western seaboard, especially during the southwest monsoon season.
“May tinatawag tayo na konsepto ng ocean connectivity. Ang isang lugar sa dagat ay naka-depende sa isa pang lugar. So isipin niyo na lang, ‘yong West Philippine Sea, d’yan nangi-ngitlog ‘yong mga isda […] ‘yong itlog ng isda, lulutang,” he explained.
(We have this concept called ocean productivity. Some parts of the sea are dependent on other areas. Just think of the West Philippine Sea where fishes lay eggs.)
“At ‘yong itlog na ‘yon ay dinadala ng agos, dinadala sa iba’t-ibang parte ng Southeast Asia, at kung titignan niyo ‘yong model na ito, ang pinaka-nakikinabang d’yan ay ‘yong West Philippines, kabilang na ang west ng Palawan at ang Northern Luzon. he added.
(Currents bring these eggs to different parts of Southeast Asia. In this model, the West Philippine Sea benefits, especially the area west of Palawan and Northern Luzon.)
Other marine resources also open several possibilities for Filipinos in the field of medicine, food production, cosmetics, and other still unexplored facets.
“So marami po sa itlog ng isda, hindi lang ng isda kung hindi ng iba’t-ibang mga organismo katulad ng corals ay nagdedeposit sa West Philippines. Hindi lang po kasi corals at isda, hindi lang giant clams ang meron sa West Philippine Sea,” he added.
(It’s not just the fishes but other organisms as well that deposit in the West Philippine Sea. Aside from the corals, there were also fishes and giant clams.)
Talks about protecting the West Philippine Sea from foreign poachers have peaked when a local fishing boat sunk after a colliding with a Chinese vessel supposedly engaged in fishing activities within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The 22 fishermen who were left adrift at sea by the Chinese vessel were eventually rescued by a Vietnamese ship.
Despite calls to take action on the issue, President Rodrigo Duterte insisted that China can fish in the region because of our friendship with the Asian superpower. Critics have denounced Duterte’s move, saying that it may be a ground for his impeachment. (Editor: Eden Estopace)