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Focus: Conservation, protection of ‘life below water’

Navotas fishermen prepare their fishnets.

Marine species conservation and protection. That is the focus of the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said last week.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said in a statement the government is keen to have Manila Bay rehabilitated and maintained to level four for swimming and other recreational activities, and, more importantly, restored to its traditional use as a fishing ground and reinstated as a vital wetland area.

Cimatu issued the statement in time for the country’s celebration of World Wildlife Day. It is celebrated globally by United Nations member-countries every March 3,  the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) of which the Philippines is a signatory.

The World Wildlife Day was proclaimed on December 20, 2013, at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly. 

“This year’s celebration reminds us of the importance of the marine life as one of the natural resources that we need to sustain, thus, giving us more reasons to continue the ongoing efforts to save Manila Bay and other bodies of water in the Philippines,” Cimatu said.

Manila Bay covers 190 kilometers of coastline from Cavite to Bataan.

World Wildlife Day is celebrated this year with the theme, “Life Below Water: For People and Planet,” which, Cimatu said, could not be more timely in the light of the ongoing rehabilitation of the heavily polluted Manila Bay.

Together with other government agencies and local government units, the DENR launched the massive cleanup and rehabilitation of Manila Bay on January 27.

Since then, several establishments have been issued cease-and-desist orders, notices of violations and show-cause orders for discharging untreated wastewater into the bay.

According to Cimatu, World Wildlife Day 2019 and the Manila Bay rehabilitation align closely with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on life below water focuses on marine species.

The DENR has lined up several activities to mark the local celebration of World Wildlife Day 2019 from March 2 to 5. They include an exhibition of a mural and other paintings featuring marine wildlife species and the Benham Rise and film showings on March 2 and 3 at SM Aura.

Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau said this year’s celebration serves as an opportunity to renew commitments, award deserving authorities in promoting environmental laws and inculcate knowledge on the marine species among the youth.

Rodriguez said the DENR, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Tourism will come up with a joint administrative order to renew their commitment for marine wildlife tourism on March 4.

She said the DENR has also partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Protect Wildlife Project for the 6th Wildlife Law Enforcement Award, which recognizes distinct individuals who have provided invaluable assistance and unqualified support to DENR in enforcing the provisions of Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Act of 2001. It will be held on March 5  at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

In the past years, the DENR has conferred the award to more than 300 recipients from various enforcement partner agencies, civil-society organizations and private individuals.

“The awarding ceremony will also serve as a venue for the DENR to call for stronger support and greater commitment for each of the awardees and their respective institutions to curb illegal wildlife trade,” Rodriguez added.

There will also be a simultaneous event in the afternoon for the academe, including the fourth National Wildlife Quiz Bee “to encourage the students to give attention to wildlife both nationally and internationally and to raise their awareness and appreciation of the Philippine wildlife conservation.”

Grade 9 students from various public high schools in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and the Calabarzon region shall be participating in the competition, which is co-organized with the US Department of Interior, International Technical Assistance and the USAID-Protect Wildlife Project.

Meanwhile, together with the USAID-Protect Wildlife Project, there will also be a ceremonial awarding of five thesis and dissertation projects on biodiversity conservation from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, UP Los Baños and the University of Santo Tomas.

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