Tacloban City—Southern Leyte 2nd congressional district Rep. Christopherson “Coco” Yap has pushed for House Bill 4095, which seeks to protect the waters surrounding Panaon Island by placing it under the protective mantle of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS).
“This will protect the diverse flora and fauna of the area and ensure food security and green sustainable livelihood for our people via tourism jobs and enterprises,” Yap said.
The lawmaker maintained that the declaration of Panaon Island as Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the Enipas Act “is very important to ensure that our future generation, including our children, would be able to experience the island as we experience it today.”
“The formation of a body specially created for its protection would deter commercial vessels from encroaching in municipal waters to do their illegal acts with impunity and keep our most prized reefs from destruction. This will allow marine life to thrive and be available to our subsistence fishermen and give assurance to our visitors that they will get what they came for or will have something much better to come back to,” Yap added.
He then thanked the support from the marine advocacy group Oceana Philippines, particularly Oceana vice president Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos and her team.
Officials in the towns of Liloan, San Francisco, Pintuyan, and San Ricardo comprising Panaon Island also passed their respective resolutions supporting the establishment of a protected seascape.
An international study cited Panaon Island as among the priority reefs that will highly likely withstand the devastating impacts of climate change.
According to the marine advocacy group, Panaon Island is part of the regions identified as 50 priority reefs globally identified by a group of scientists and commissioned by Bloomberg Philanthropies together with other funders.
“These reefs, in the absence of other impacts, are climate resilient. They are likely to have a heightened chance of surviving negative impacts of climate change compared to other reefs. Hence, protection of coral reefs in these locations needs to be prioritized,” Oceana said.
“Panaon Island’s marine ecosystems are biodiverse but are threatened,” it added.
“Our studies show that coral reefs around the island had some of the highest live hard coral cover in the country, with greater than 44% hard coral cover while none were found to have less than 22% hard coral cover. Even the coral reefs in the more exposed Pacific side of the island recorded higher mean cover than the computed average for the bioregion,” Oceana said.
Yap’s House Bill 4095 and Southern Leyte 1st Congressional District Representative Luz Mercado House Bill 3743, which calls for the same agenda, are now pending in the Committee on Natural Resources of the 19th Congress.