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Declare a protected seascape the Verde Island Passage, says Philippines priest

Fr. Edwin Gariguez. PHOTO FROM / Ship is cleaning the oil spill from the sea in Oriental Mindoro. Photo: Malayan Towage & Salvage Corp

Limit destructive industries from proliferating around the Verde Island Passage (VIP) by declaring it a protected seascape under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems (ENIPAS) Act, says Fr.  Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP, in a statement on Thursday, in time for the first anniversary of the oil spill along the VIP.

On February 28 last year, MT Princess Empress, carrying 900,000 liters of industrial oil, sank along the VIP, known as the Amazon of the Oceans, a marine biodiversity hotspot. 

Advocates from Protect VIP also call for polluter accountability and legal protection for the VIP, as oil and grease levels in affected areas still exceeded water quality guidelines.

The Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), a co-convenor of the Protect VIP Network, has already conducted three water quality tests, with results indicating that the water quality in the VIP fails to meet the standards for protected waters.

 The study released on Thursday reveals that the DENR's water quality guidelines for oil and grease were not met in all 3 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Calapan, Naujan, and Mansalay, with 4 out of 6 MPAs also failing to meet the standards in Pinamalayan and Pola. 

“We hope that this water quality testing will expedite the accountability and just compensation from the polluters that we have been insisting on since day one,” said Gariguez.

"This is the third water quality study conducted by CEED, and results persistently indicate that the water quality in the VIP fails to meet stringent standards for protected waters. Based on our recent findings, the majority of the affected waters are still reeling from the effects of the oil spill last year, and if not properly addressed, this can bring adverse effects to the fishing industry in the VIP and health hazards to its communities,” said Ivan Andres, deputy head of the Research and Policy program of CEED.

Gariguez emphasized the importance of legal protection for the VIP, not only for its biodiversity but also for the vulnerable communities that rely on it.

“We want the people of Oriental Mindoro to move past this tragedy with the assurance that it will not happen again. Remnants of oil should not serve as a reminder left by this tragedy, rather, they should mark the commencement of the legal protection of the VIP,” said Gariguez.  MTV


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