Press Release
May 26, 2011

Legarda Expresses Alarm Over Destruction of Coral Reefs

Alarmed with the reported poaching that ravaged approximately 7,000 hectares of sea bed within the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea, Senator Loren Legarda today called the attention of government agencies mandated to enforce Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of the Philippines.

According to reports, the damaged marine life area measured about twice the size of Manila and poachers harvested more than 21,000 pieces of black coral and killed hundreds of marine species, including 161 endangered turtles, with a market value of about P35 million pesos.

"This is indeed very alarming, considering that this kind of environmental exploitation has been banned for thirteen years, when Congress passed the Fisheries Code of the Philippines. A damage of this magnitude could have been prevented with the strict implementation of the law," Legarda said.

"Our law enforcement agencies should go after the perpetrators of this crime against nature and ensure that our seas and marine species are safe from such cruelty. It is lamentable that a nation like ours which is blessed with a rich biodiversity has been included as one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots largely because of these acts that destroy our natural resources," she added.

Under the Fisheries Code of 1998, a ban is imposed on the exploitation and exportation of corals as well as the fishing and taking of any rare, threatened and endangered species. Mandated to enforce this code are the law enforcement officers of the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police and law enforcement officers of the LGUs and other government enforcement agencies.

The Senator explained that there are estimates that one square kilometer of healthy coral reef can support as much as 35 metric tons of live fish. She lamented that of the 27,000 square kilometers of the country's existing corals, only five percent (5%) are in excellent condition.

"These corals do not just grow overnight. They take years to form. Destroying coral reefs is stealing the homes of marine life organisms. We must ensure that the abusers of nature will be punished. Violations that cause irreparable harm to coral reefs should not be tolerated and must be prevented by the authorized law enforcement officers," Legarda stressed.

Legarda has filed a resolution directing the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and Committee on Climate Change to look into the said incident.

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