House pushes for declaration of Panaon Island as a protected seascape to address climate emergency
Press Release Date: May 23, 2023
Southern Leyte 2nd District Rep. Christopherson “Coco” Yap and international non-government organization Oceana on Tuesday express optimism that the House of Representatives (HoR) will pass the bill declaring Panaon Island as a protected seascape within this year.
“We are proud of our Panaon Island in Southern Leyte for its biodiversity and we intend to sustainably protect it to ensure that our children and the next generation will see the benefits of a healthy and vibrant marine ecosystem and abundant fisheries resources. They are the reasons we are doing this so that they have safeguards against the destructive impacts of climate change. The local fisherfolk in our island are dependent on our marine resources so the management of these important marine habitats as a protected seascape is given due importance through the enactment of this bill,” said Yap.
This island in the southern tip of Southern Leyte has coral reefs with up to 60% of very good coral cover, way above the national average of only 20%. It has an area of about 61,204 hectares or 612.04 sq km that is also home to Endemic Philippine ducks (Anas luzonica) where its presence can be seen mostly in the mangrove areas. There are 18 important species of flora and fauna found in the waters surrounding the island and all these are in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened, endangered and critically endangered species, including whale sharks, blue whales, hawksbill turtle, and green sea turtle.
“Oceana is very proud of the efforts to move for the national protection of Panaon Island’s magnificent coral reefs. Protecting these climate resilient reefs and saving these coral reefs from the continuous threats that hound our marine resources will in turn provide food security and livelihood to so many Filipinos, not to mention the contribution of the country to the global effort to declare 30% of the planet’s water as marine protected areas by 2030,” said Atty. Rose Liza Eisma Osorio, Oceana Acting Vice President.
To seal the national protection, Rep. Yap who hailed from the 2nd District of Southern Leyte filed House Bills 4095 and 6677 while Rep. Luz Mercado of the 1st District of Southern Leyte filed House Bill 3743 at the start of the 19th Congress. In the Senate, Senator Cynthia Villar who chairs the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources filed a counterpart bill, Senate Bill 1690. These bills seek to declare Panaon Island as a protected seascape under the ENIPAS Act and outline its coverage in the four municipalities of Liloan, San Francisco, Pintuyan and San Ricardo.
On May 15, the HoR’s Committee on Natural Resources provisionally approved the consolidated bill for the proposed Panaon Island seascape pending the submission of a minor revision to the technical description from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA). The Mapping Authority committed to submitting the revised technical description this week.
The exhibit in the North Wing lobby of the HoR will run from May 23 to May 25. Rep. Yap and Oceana invited the legislators to visit this showcase of beauty and biodiversity of the island and help its protection by voting for its passage as soon possible.
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. (END)
For More Information:
Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana
Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org