According to Tuballes, good status implies “maganda yung coral ecosystem, buhay na buhay siya, and marami ang marine life that thrives in the coral ecosystem.”
This is because of the “programs and activities for marine protection, human interventions, and law enforcement.”
One human intervention is the coral transplantation done by PENRO and MENRO-Kiamba on August 5-18 at Tuka Marine Park and Beach Resort in Kiamba.
According to Michelle Polistico, Environmental Management Specialist II, coral transplantation is when “we collect yung mga loose coral fragments, na naputol due to waves or naapakan ng tao, and then we plant it again kasi may possibility na mabuhay pa siya ulit and develop into new colonies.”
There were about 1,400 loose coral fragments of branching corals that were transplanted in the area, said Polistico.
Mostly “branching corals or acropora” are the coral species that were transplanted because “they are prone to breakage.”
Polistico clarified the coral fragments were “loose” and were “not intentionally removed.”
In 2013, Mindanao State University - General Santos City first initiated the said activity in Tuka. It was then funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
The provincial government, thru PENRO, sustained the activity in the province in 2018 and now in 2020.
Polistico disclosed that Tuka Marine Park “is the first and successful coral transplantation” in Sarangani.
Tuballes said a healthy coral ecosystem brings “ecological and economic benefits.”
“The coral ecosystem is the habitat and feeding ground of all marine life, so if it is diverse and intensified, ibig sabihin yung life form is buhay na buhay and it will go down to economic productivity, especially on fisheries,” he said.
In a study, “coral reefs, considered as the rainforests of the sea, are home to a variety of organisms, and serve as shelter, refuge, and feeding grounds of juvenile and adult fishes and invertebrates.”
Tuballes said declaring Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in some parts of Sarangani Bay is also one intervention for the preservation of marine life.
“The main objective why you declare an area as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is because that is the remaining coral ecosystem na good pa siya, so that maprotektahan siya, and the tendency is to improve the status of the corals in those areas,”
In the six coastal municipalities of Sarangani, barangay Kawas in Alabel, Lot and Pananggalon Reef in barangay Poblacion in Malapatan, Colon and Kamanga in Maasim, Glan Padidu Marine Sanctuary in Glan, and Tuka Reef in Kiamba were just some of the established MPAs in terms of the coral ecosystem.
Some acts prohibited within protected areas are:
Using any fishing or harvesting gear and practices or any of their variations that destroy coral reefs, seagrass beds or other marine life and their associated habitats. Mere possession of such gears within the protected areas shall be prima facie evidence of their use.
Also prohibited are the dumping, throwing, using, or causing to be dumped into or placed in the protected area of any toxic chemical, noxious or poisonous substance or nonbiodegradable material, untreated sewage or animal waste products or products whether in liquid, solid or gas state, including pesticides and other hazardous substances.
In 2012, Philippine authorities seized two Malaysian vessels for dumping coal waste into the sea off Sarangani. The Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape Protected Area Management Board (SBPS-PAMB) had passed a resolution to initiate legal action against the owners and crew of the tug boat Oceania 1 and cargo barge Oceania 2 for violating Philippine environment and fishery laws. It said the vessels illegally anchored and dumped pollutants some 300 meters off the coast of Kapatan village. The area is part of the 215,000-hectare Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape.
In 2011, a Panama-registered bulk carrier rammed the protected Bakud Reef off Kiamba. The MV Double Prosperity was a 224-meter-long cargo ship—manned mostly by Filipino crewmen -— on its way to India from Australia with about 66,000 tons of coal when it ran aground seven kilometers off the coast of Kiamba.
During investigation, the crew pointed to human error as the cause of the grounding, which damaged a huge chunk of the Bakud Reef, an important marine sanctuary in Sarangani. But according to the Inquirer, the crew was busy watching the Pacquiao-Mosley fight and left the ship on auto pilot when the ship plowed into the reef. The ship destroyed parts of the reef that marine experts estimated to be worth between P40 million to P60 million.
Tuballes said “intensifying law enforcement” and “educating the communities about corals” will help contribute in marine protection and conservation.
“There is no best way to improve the coral ecosystem but to leave it alone and regulate human activities,” he said. (Jori Mae R. Samillano/SARANGANI PROVINCIAL INFORMATION OFFICE)
Photos by Tres Besana, taken on August 17, 2020 during the coral transplantation at Tuka Marine Park.