Civil society and faith-based groups launched on Monday, September 27, a campaign to call attention to the situation of marine biodiversity in Verde Island Passage, off the coast of Luzon.
The groups expressed alarm over what they described as “increasing detrimental activities” threatening the area, including plans to extract fossil gas and liquefied natural gas.
Verde Island Passage is a strait that separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro, connecting the South China Sea with the Tayabas Bay and the Sibuyan Sea beyond.
It is one of the busiest sea lanes in the Philippines because it is the main shipping route between the Port of Manila and the Visayas and Mindanao in the south.
The 1.14 million hectare passage is extremely rich in marine biodiversity, the richest area in the entire Coral Triangle. It has been called “Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity.”
The petition issued by various groups on Monday called on the government to act on existing commitments to preserve the health of the area and stop the establishment of fossil gas plants and liquefied natural gas terminals.
“Proponents often claim that fossil gas is a ‘clean energy’ source, despite a growing global awareness that it is, in fact, destructive,” read the petition presented by Father Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of the group “Protect VIP” or “Verde Island Passage.”
“The urgency of this matter is undeniable, and we demand and expect our local and national government units and agencies to act immediately,” said Father Gariguez, who is also social action director of Mindoro.
The petition cited the risks of oil spills or disposal of shipboard liquid wastes and bilge water from barges, chemical leak, seawater intake resulting in warmer waters that in turn kill young marine life or force them to move away.
“We are joining the fight to protect the Verde Island Passage because it is worth fighting for,” said Yeb Sano, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Our people’s lives and livelihoods depend on this very important natural ecosystem,” he said.