Four Southern Leyte towns seek ENIPAS protection for coral-rich Panaon Island - Oceana Philippines
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Four Southern Leyte towns seek ENIPAS protection for coral-rich Panaon Island

Press Release Date: July 21, 2022



In the fight against human-induced threats and global climate change, Panaon Island towns go all out for the enhanced protection of their marine habitat and sanctuaries that need stronger safeguards under Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems (ENIPAS) Act.  

In separate resolutions filed in June this year, the local chief executives of the municipalities of Liloan, Pintuyan, San Francisco, and San Ricardo pledged their support for the efforts to provide national protection to Panaon Island which is home to coral reefs that are included in the priority regions for conservation, having reefs with the potential to withstand the impacts of climate change and repopulate neighboring reefs. 

According to the resolutions from Liloan and Pintuyan, “designating Panaon Island as a protected area will not only ensure the perpetual existence of the marine organisms by promoting managed access and regulated utilization of the resources, but also further enhance cooperation among national government, local government and concerned private organizations.” 

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are identified portions of water that are provided with protection due to their unique physical and biological diversity. The ENIPAS Act of 2018 amended the NIPAS Act of 1992 with enhancements to state policies and legislation for all protected areas and provisions for accountability of those mandated to protect the environment.  

“These resolutions from the municipalities of Panaon Island are testament of the island communities’ clamor to save the precious marine resources that they depend on for livelihood and food. While it is true that the waters surrounding the island are home to incredibly rich marine resources, without ample protection these remain vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other environmental challenges,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President.  

In 2020, Oceana, together with the provincial government of Southern Leyte, launched a 21-day scientific expedition to Panaon Island and discovered that more than half of the coral reefs surrounding the island were in good or excellent condition. Some of the areas visited in the island had more than 60 percent coral cover – considered a rarity in the country and remarkable in the country which have continued to decline over the years.  

For the residents of the island, the rich marine biodiversity and the fisheries that they harvest from the ocean helped them survive the challenges, from the lockdown due to COVID19, up to the devastation they suffered after Supertyphoon Odette hit them last year.   

“Their ability to withstand external shocks, like the pandemic and the storm, could be drawn from the ocean and their farms. The commercial value of the fish they catch has been diminished during the lockdown, but they relied on their fishing and farming livelihoods to ensure they have food for their households” said Dakila Kim Yee, Assistant Professor from the University of the Philippines Tacloban who led the team that conducted the socio-economic survey, a requirement of RA 11038 toward its proclamation as a national protected seascape.    

Yee further stated that their survey indicated a high score on the islanders’ awareness and value provided for the benefits that they get from their local marine sanctuaries and protected areas.  

Last year, then Deputy Speaker and now Senator Loren Legarda, one of the principal authors of the ENIPAS Act, and Senator Cynthia Villar, a principal co-author of the law, welcomed the merits of declaring Panaon Island a protected seascape which would in turn ensure its access to sufficient funding and protection.  

Oceana also launched a virtual exhibit featuring the breathtaking underwater photographs and video documentary of the expedition in Panaon Island. A magazine that highlights why Panaon is worth protecting has also been recently released.   

“We cannot deny the intense changes and challenges our planet faces due to climate change, marine pollution, plastic waste, destructive fishing practices, and the alarming spread of crown-of-thorns starfish. Panaon Island is a gem that must be protected against these hazards at all costs. Let us work together to save these coral reefs that hold so much potential,” Ramos urged.  

Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources. 


For More Information:    

Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana     

Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail:    

Twitter:@oceana_phInstagram: @oceana_ph