A De La Salle University (DLSU) professor has proposed the establishment of a coordinating body in the Philippines that will ensure coastal ecosystems in the country are healthy in combatting the effects of climate change.
Dr.Wilfredo Roehl Y. Licuanan, a professor at DLSU’s College of Science stated at a recent Policy Forum by the Department of Science and Technology-National Academy of Science and Technology (DOST-NAST) that coordinated action on the country’s coastal and marine resources is better than having one agency managing fisheries, another agency managing the environment, and yet a third one handling tourism separately.
Giving an overview of Philippine coastal and marine resources at the forum titled “Research Findings on the Effects of Climate Change on the Philippine Marine Resources” held at Hotel Jen Manila last April 5, Licuanan said that a coral reef is made up of different parts.
These parts cannot exist on their own for very long, and instead are dependent on each other. These are the mangroves, seagrasses,seaweeds, and the corals.
Coral reefs are important for biodiversity and fisheries, he added. They also provide protection against waves and storm surges, and help boost tourism. Licuanan noted that what comes out of some fishes’ anus are ground up corals which make up the white sand in beaches that tourists love.
Hence, coral reefs, and the entire coastal ecosystems in general, should be saved and kept intact. Climate change, however, causes the rising and warming of seas which lead to coral bleaching. This refers to the process wherein a coral turns completely white.
This happens when the water is too warm, causing the coral to eject the algae in its tissues. Algae loss causes the onset of coral bleaching. When this situation is prolonged, the coral may die.
Climate change also causes extreme weather events such as stronger storms which also further damage coral reefs and other marine resources.
All in all, coral reef degradation means mass coral bleaching incidents, fewer, smaller or dead corals, absence of fishes, and others.
“I think one of the reasons why we have so many problems in the coastal areas is because we treat each one of them as commodities, as sectors,” Licuanan stressed. “We lose track of the big picture. We lose the coastal ecosystem because of mangrove planting, coral rehabilitation.”
Hence, the DLSU professor suggests the establishment of a body that will pay attention to the coastal ecosystem in its entirety and keep it healthy and intact, instead of having different agencies handling different components of the ecosystem.
The problem is urgent what with coral bleaching now taking place in Negros, said Licuanan and so for the meantime, what we can do is cope.
To help the Philippines cope with the situation, DLSU’s Br. Alfred Shields FSC Ocean Research Center is implementing NACRE (National Assessment of Coral Reef Environment) which is funded by DOST. NACRE aims to survey around 200 reefs around the country to provide the understanding and information necessary to make healthy coral ecosystems possible.
The Forum aimed to review recorded impacts of climate change on marine resources and make necessary recommendations for their sustainable utilization and management. The other speakers at the Policy Forum were Dr. Vincent V. Hilomen of DENR and Dr. Laura T. David, UP Diliman-Marine Science Institute professor. (Joel C. Atencio)