Back to Main
To Overseas Start Page
The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
June, 1998 Vol. 1 No. 6

Coastal Alert





60% of World’s Coral Reefs Threatened
Red Tide Hits Central Luzon (Again)
Fish Kill in Laguna de Bay
La Niña Peril
Boy Killed for "Poaching"; Marine Sanctuary Declared Void
Manila Aquarium Restored
Hole In The Sky: Montreal Ozone Protocol A Success But...
Tañon Strait Now A Protected Seascape
Pollution Inspection: Private Groups To Fill Gap?

60% of World’s Coral Reefs Threatened
A new study, said to be the first systematic global assessment of the health of the world’s coral reefs, paints a bleak future for these ecologically precious marine resource: nearly 60% of the Earth’s living coral reefs, some of which are more than 2 million years old, are threatened by human activity from coastal development and overfishing to inland pollution, the World Resources Institute, an environment research group, reported.

"Like rainforests, reefs harbor much of the planet’s wealth of species and are being rapidly degraded by humans," said Dirk Bryant, one of the authors. "The news is grim."

The study came only weeks after US President Bill Clinton highlighted ecologists’ concern about coral reef degradation at a conference on oceans in Monterey, California, at which he pledged $6 million to help restore degraded reefs in US coastal waters.

Coral reefs consist of thousands of small organisms and an outside cover of a single-celled plant that gives off the coral’s distinctive bright colors. They are home to a fourth of all marine fish species, according to scientists. Sensitive to pollution and even to unusually warm water, the coral gives off a bleached appearance when it dies. AP in Cebu Daily News, 06.24.98

Red Tide Hits Central Luzon (Again)
The red tide menace is back, affecting the entire Manila Bay area from Cavite to Bataan, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA). Bataan, according to a senior aquaculturist at the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, was the latest to be affected by the red tide. Shellfish gatherers in the area have been advised to stop selling their harvest. The DA has also imposed a shellfish ban in Bulacan, Zambales, Parañaque and Las Piñas and asked the regional police command to ensure that the ban holds.

The deadly red tide usually occurs at the start of the rainy season.

"We need more rain so that the affected shellfish will be thoroughly washed of the toxins," said Jose Garrido, DA regional director for Central Luzon. Bert Basa in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 06.23.98

Fish Kill in Laguna de Bay
A fish kill occurred last June 11-12 in Jala-jala, Pililla, Morong and Tanay in Rizal Province, authorities reported. The militant Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas or Pamalakaya (National Movement of Fishers in the Philippines) accused Kephil Corporation, a Korean-owned power plant under the National Power Corporation, of having caused the fish kill. The company, according to Pamalakaya, has been dumping toxic wastes into the Laguna de Bay.

Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Delfin Ganapin refuted the group’s charges, saying the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) has determined that salt water caused the fish kill. According to the LLDA, a round-the-clock water monitoring and sampling of Laguna de Bay revealed that salt water entered the Bay due to its low water level, increasing its chloride level and affecting freshwater fisheries.

The local government of Jala-jala is conducting its own investigation into the fish kill. Jala-jala Mayor Jose de los Santos said he has tapped the assistance of non-governmental organizations and the private sector to help determine its cause.

"Fishing is the primary source of income of the people of Jala-jala. I’m afraid that if the fish kill continues, it will cause massive unemployment (in our town)," De los Santos said.

Pamalakaya said at least 6,000 fishing families in the four Rizal towns have been severely affected by the fish kill. The group demanded immediate indemnification for the affected families and the cancellation of Kephil Corporation’s license to operate. PNA in Cebu Daily News, 06.20.98

La Niña Peril
It appears La Niña will hit the Philippines this year, after all. After earlier forecasting a 35% probability that the weather phenomenon will affect the country, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said there is now a 55% probability that more intense than usual typhoons associated with La Niña would occur by the last quarter of 1998. The La Niña episode could last from six to nine months but weather experts could not yet determine how strong this episode would be, the agency added.

Pagasa made its latest forecast even as it announced that the Philippines was still reeling from the destructive effects of El Niño, as shown by the "way below normal" rainfall in most parts of the country despite the onset of the rainy season. El Niño is characterized by the unusual warming of the eastern Pacific which alters global weather patterns. A La Niña episode is the opposite of and usually follows an El Niño episode. While El Niño significantly reduced rainfall and caused drought in many areas in the country, La Niña is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of typhoons.

Agriculture officials said La Niña could be more destructive than El Niño, as farmers start planting at the onset of the rainy season. The prolonged rainfall it brings could also adversely affect tourism and the fishing industry.

"During prolonged heavy rains, there is a big chance that the coliform level of water in coastal areas would go up because the rains would wash down nutrients from the uplands," said Westly Rosario, officer-in-charge of the National Fisheries Research Development Center (NFRDC), an agency under the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR). The NFRDC has set up 12 water sampling stations at Lingayen Gulf to monitor the quality of water in the Gulf. DZ Pazzibugan in Philippine Daily Inquirer, 06.28.98; PNA in Cebu Daily News, 06.20.98

Boy Killed for "Poaching"; Marine Sanctuary Declared Void
A 16-year-old fisher was shot dead after he was caught allegedly spearfishing at a disputed marine sanctuary off Nalusuan Island in Cebu Province. A boatman at a beach resort on Nalusuan Island was implicated in the shooting.

The so-called "marine sanctuary" has long been the center of controversy between the owners of the Nalusuan Beach Resort and marginal fishers. The owners have been preventing fishers from going within an area 50 meters from the beach, claiming it had been legally declared a fish sanctuary. On June 6, the dispute assumed a moral dimension when Higenio Sumalinog, a 16-year-old fisher from nearby Caohagan Island, was killed, allegedly by a "warning shot" fired by a boatman from the resort, while spearfishing 30 meters from the resort’s wharf.

The incident finally spurred the Cebu Provincial Board into settling the issue. In a resolution signed on June 24, the Board declared, "The fish sanctuary in the waters surrounding Nalusuan Island is non-existent... There is no fish sanctuary at all, therefore everybody is welcome to enter the area, and fishermen are allowed to fish in the sea waters off Nalusuan as long as they use legal methods." The resolution did not state if sanctions would be slapped against the beach resort owners.

Earlier Paolo Tagsip, municipal secretary of Cordova town, which has jurisdiction over Nalusuan, sent a letter to the provincial secretary’s office informing the Provincial Board that he could not find any town ordinance declaring a Nalusuan sanctuary.

The owners of the resort claimed the shooting was "accidental" and they were merely enforcing a law protecting the alleged fish sanctuary. By FJ Dungog in Cebu Daily News, 06.25.98

Manila Aquarium Restored
The Bureau of Science Aquarium, Manila, a public aquarium of endemic, native and introduced species found in Philippine rivers, lakes, swamps and seas, has been restored and was formally inaugurated last June 22. Now known as the Acuario de Manila, the aquarium was built in 1913 and in its time was considered to be one of the best of its kind in the world. It was destroyed during World War II and restored this year in line with the Centennial Celebration of the Philippine Declaration of Independence.

Hole In The Sky: Montreal Protocol A Success But...
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has been declared "an outstanding success so far" by 200 scientists f rom around the world, said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in an executive summary of the 1998 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. The report said a full recovery of the Earth’s protective ozone shield could occur by the middle of the next century, but it would require that the Protocol is fully implemented.

The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement on limiting the production of substances that deplete the ozone layer. Under the agreement, developed and developing countries agreed to phase out CFCs -- chloro-fluorocarbons -- which are commonly used in aerosols and refrigeration systems. Many experts doubt that targets can be met, although CFC use has dropped dramatically in many industrialized countries. According to the WMO/UNEP report, ozone decline in the middle latitudes in both the northern and southern hemispheres has slowed in comparison with the previous scientific assessment done in 1994. "If measures have not been taken in accordance with the Montreal Protocol and its Amendments and Adjustments, the ozone decline would have been much stronger and whould have continued for many more decades," the report said.

Despite such findings, WMO warned that the ozone layer is at its most vulnerable now and things will get worse before they get any better. "We could expect this ozone depletion to be stronger than anything we have observed up to now," said Rumen Bojkov, the leading ozone expert at the Geneva-based UN weather agency.

The ozone layer is a protective fragile shield of gas that absorbs harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. It has been increasingly pierced by holes caused by man-made chemicals. The holes are blamed for skin cancer and cataracts in humans.

The ozone layer is expected to hit its all-time thinnest by 2000 or 2001. Bojkov said scientific models have shown that the holes would stay for the coming 20 years, but a recovery by the middle of the next century would bring it back to the 1960s levels -- if measures recommended by the Montreal Protocol are fully implemented. PNA/Xinhua in The Freeman, 06.24.98

Pollution Inspection: Private Groups To Fill Gap?
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 7 is considering a plan to allow private firms or non-governmental organizations to inspect vital government projects and factories in Cebu for compliance to anti-pollution laws. DENR Regional Director Jeremias Dolino said the plan is patterned after those adopted by industrialized countries like the United States, Australia and France.

"It is a novel approach that would address our problem of lack of inspectors, budget constraints and limited laboratory testing capacity," said Dolino. "We have more than 1,000 factories in Cebu. We cannot inspect all of them with only eight personnel."

The plan is for DENR to contract private firms and non-governmental organizations that have the technical expertise to gather technical data on possible pollution sources. The firms would be required to coordinate their site inspections with the government. Dolino said the German Technical Cooperation Agency has expressed willingness to finance and provide technical expertise to the project. By Froilan Gallardo in Cebu Daily News, 06.28.98

Tañon Strait Now A Protected Seascape
Malacañang has declared the Tañon Strait a protected seascape for marine mammals, the information officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Negros Oriental reported. The declaration aims to secure the habitat and safety of whales and dolphins found off the coast of La Libertad in northern Negros all the way to Dauin in the south. The protected seascape also includes coastal towns in southern Cebu on the other side of the strait.

Studies made by the Silliman University Marine Laboratory in 1991 indicate that there are at least nine species of dolphins and whales in the Tañon Strait. These include the Spinner dolphin, Spotted dolphin, Pygmy killer whale, Dwarf whale and Pilot whale, among others.

A public hearing on the proposal held last April 14 revealed the coastal communities’ concern about the effects of the declaration on the fishing industry there. They received assurances that the fishers’ livelihood would not be affected as the proclamation covers only the protection of the habitats of marine mammals.

Environment officers stressed that the proclamation will help ensure the full development of Tañon Strait for tourism and at the same time ensure the protection and sustainable management of the area’s biodiversity. By JP Abayon in Sun*Star, 06.24.98



            To Over Seas Start Page
Back To Main

This website was made possible through support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the terms and conditions of Contract No. AID-492-0444-C-00-6028-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID.

Copyright 1998 by All Rights Reserved