While the country celebrated the 68th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, environmentalists celebrated yet another historical event. Last 6 April, the enabling act for Tubbataha Reefs was signed into law, after eight long years of lobbying and congressional discussion.
Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act provides more permanent local management structures, fiscal autonomy and steeper penalties for violations of the Park’s rules. The act will vastly improve the Park’s capability to protect its marine resources and help improve catch rates in the Sulu Sea.
|Tubbataha Reefs pulsates with shoal of fusilier and damselfish hoverering|
above vast fields of staghorn coral (Photo credit: Toppx2/WWF)
Says WWF-Philippines Vice-Chairman & CEO Lory Tan, “Tubbataha is the first and only purely marine UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southeast Asian seas. Although the park has long been protected by a Presidential Proclamation and a determined but rather tenuous thread of stakeholder collaboration, its protected status has now been cast in stone, under the full force of a Republic Act. After years of deliberation, the final pieces have come to play.”_________
Protection for the Philippines’ Most Productive Coral Reefs
Nestled at the heart of the Coral Triangle are the twin atolls of Tubbataha, 150 kilometres (90 nautical miles) southeast of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan and administered by nearby Cagayancillo. Formed from the eruption of undersea volcanoes nearly 15 million years ago, Tubbataha or ‘long reef’ in the Samal tongue plays host to 510 kinds of fish that frolic amongst 396 types of soft and hard coral. Other denizens include eight breeding seabird, 12 marine mammal, 11 shark and two turtle species.
Declared a World Heritage Site in 1993, the Tubbataha Reefs are amongst the richest and most productive areas within the Coral Triangle – the Earth’s centre of marine biodiversity. A healthy coral reef has about 30 to 40 metric tonnes of fish biomass per square kilometre. As a result of the years of effective conservation, Tubbataha has been recorded with upwards of 200 tonnes of fish biomass per square kilometer. Its fertile reefs constantly seed adjoining regions such as eastern Palawan and western Visayas with fish and invertebrate spawn, generating over a billion dollars of marine produce that feed 35 million people each year.
“WWF lauds all the lobbyists, local government units and stakeholders who have toiled ceaselessly for the Act to become reality. Some say that our work is now done,” says Tan. “Rather, it has only just begun, for governance is a joint-responsibility between the government and civil society.”
Today, the Park stands at 97,030 hectares and is undoubtedly the most biologically productive in the country,. Considering that only 5% of the country’s coral reefs are in excellent condition, the protection of the immensely-productive Tubbataha Reefs ensures a far-brighter future for the millions who depend on Philippine seas for food and livelihood. (30)
Fig. 1 – The proliferation of life within and around the Tubbataha Reefs almost belies belief. Here an enormous pulsating shoal of fusilier and damselfish hover above vast fields of staghorn coral. (Toppx2)
For more information, please contact:
Tubbataha Project Manager, WWF-Philippines
Information, Education and Communications Officer, WWF-Philippines