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Monday, May 27, 2024

Power firms vow to protect Verde Island biodiversity

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Three of the Philippines’ biggest conglomerates joined forces with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday by committing to protecting and conserving the Verde Island Passage (VIP), a critical waterway boasting exceptional marine biodiversity.

The three conglomerates—Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV), Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and San Miguel Corp. (SMC)—signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government agencies, emphasizing the importance of striking a balance between economic development and environmental protection in the VIP initiative.

“Recognizing the imperative of safeguarding this natural treasure, the government, in collaboration with major business conglomerates, has embarked on a landmark partnership for the protection and conservation of the Verde Island Passage,” said DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga.

The Verde Island Passage, situated between Luzon and Mindoro islands, is referred as “center of the center” of the world’s marine shore fish biodiversity. It weaves through the waters of Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro.

Strategically located within the Coral Triangle—a globally renowned hotspot for marine life diversity encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste—the VIP plays a vital role in marine diversity.

The VIP hosts over 1,700 marine species, including 60 percent of the world’s shore fish species and 300 coral species, underscoring the urgent need for conservation efforts not only within the Philippines but also on a global scale.

“We must make sure that—in our quest to provide clean, reliable, and affordable energy to our people—we also pay attention to safeguarding the environment and the communities we serve. But because we have committed partners in San Miguel, Aboitiz, the DENR and the DOE, there are good grounds for optimism,” said Metro Pacific chairman Manuel Pangilinan.

San Miguel chairman and chief executive Ramon Ang highlighted the importance of preserving marine resources not just for the present but for future generations.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to join forces with the Aboitiz group, MVP group and various stakeholders in protecting the Verde Island Passage,” he said.

AEV president and chief executive Sabin Aboitiz emphasized the well-being of communities surrounding the VIP.

“It has always been our earnest commitment to help safeguard our environment and uplift the welfare of the communities,” he said.

“In this case, the people surrounding and dependent on the Verde Island Passage for their livelihood. Its preservation is of paramount interest and once again the Aboitiz Group, MVP Group and San Miguel Group are working together to do our part,” Aboitiz said.

Loyzaga said the MOU aligns with the UN Decade of Ocean Science and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, aiming to raise awareness and restore critical ecosystems.

A key provision of the MOU establishes a marine science research station in the VIP, partnering with prestigious institutions like UP Systems, De La Salle University and the California Academy of Sciences. This collaboration will foster a deeper understanding of the VIP’s ecosystem and guide sustainable management practices.

The MOU takes effect for five years from the signing date with the possibility of extension. Financial contributions from each of the five signatories will ensure the VIP and surrounding provinces thrive as a marine protected area.

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