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DENR eyes harmonizing PHL coral reef-saving initiatives

MANILA, May 25 – The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) aims harmonizing nationwide activities on rehabilitating and protecting the country's coral reefs to boost the bid to save these marine natural resources from climate change and other threats.

Such harmonization is among the strategies in the proposed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) memorandum circular covering guidelines for implementing the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Protection Program (CRRPP).

CRRPP targets covering from 2013 to 2016 nearly 890,000 hectares of coral reefs in 52 marine key biodiversity areas nationwide.

"We're already coordinating with parties undertaking their respective rehabilitation and protection work for our coral reefs," PAWB-Coastal and Marine Management Office executive director Jacob Meimban Jr. said on the side of the mural painting activity the agency spearheaded Friday in Metro Manila to celebrate Ocean Month and International Day of Biological Diversity.

He raised urgency for harmonizing efforts on saving the reefs, noting that available data indicate only about five percent of these are still in excellent condition.

"That data is even from the 1990s so it's unclear what our reefs' actual state is at present," he said.

Coral reefs are diverse underwater eco-systems built from calcium carbonate secreted by corals which are marine animals belonging to phylum Cnidaria.

Species grouped under phylum Cnidaria include those inhabiting tropical oceans.

The proposed circular requires DENR to establish a database on coral reef rehabilitation, protection and management so fresh data can be available for use in improving ways to save these marine resources.

"We need updated data to better save our reefs," Meimban said.

Reefs serve as foraging ground for various marine species, including commercially important fish.

Experts said reefs also act as a natural barrier for protecting shorelines.

Philippine reefs are falling prey to environmental degradation and unsustainable fishing, however, Meimban noted.

Experts earlier warned elevated sea temperature and sea level rise – both linked to climate change – adversely affect reefs as well.

Elevated sea temperature can cause coral bleaching, they noted.

They also said coral reefs would be more submerged when sea level rises, making it difficult for sunlight to reach these resources.

"Concerted action is needed to save our reefs," Meimban said.

On Friday morning, Meimban as well as DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, PAWB director Theresa Mundita Lim and PAWB assistant director Nelson Devanadera led the volunteer men, women and children who painted the 1.08-kilometer fence of Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

The activity transformed the fence into the Wall of Nature, a mural showing various marine and terrestrial species nationwide.

DENR decided creating the mural to help further raise public awareness and action on conserving and protecting the country's biodiversity.

Lim said the mural was so far the country's longest biodiversity wall.

Over 100 people volunteered to create the mural. (PNA)

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