Six legendary Filipino open-water athletes swam together to promote the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP) and educate the public about the need to conserve Philippine coral reefs.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)Â Hero of the EnvironmentÂ Atty. Ingemar Macarine;Â Frank Lacson;Â Betsy Medalla;Â Julian Valencia;Â Moi YamoyamÂ andÂ Miguel VillanuevaÂ swam an open-water swim marathon last May 29 forÂ Reef Strokes, an event to celebrateÂ Coral Triangle DayÂ and highlight the dangers of plastic pollution and climate change on the Verde Island Passage, dubbed as the center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.
“As a swimmer who regularly swims in open water, I am disheartened each time I encounter floating garbage. We swim to remind everyone that we need to actÂ nowÂ to protect our marine resources,â€ says Atty. Ingemar Macarine, who was awarded by WWF-Philippines as aÂ Hero of the EnvironmentÂ for his efforts in raising marine conservation awareness in his swims.
â€œOpen-water swimmers are natural stewards of the sea, itâ€™s important for us to inspire more people to swim and protect the beautiful Philippine seas,â€ adds Coach Betsy Medalla, the first to finish the 10-kilometer swim.
Since 2007, WWF-Philippines has assistedÂ Hamilo Coast, Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club,Â plusÂ Pico Sands HotelÂ in various environmental programs such as coastal resource management, renewable energy use, solid-waste management and ridge-to-reef conservation. ExplainsÂ Hamilo Coast Sustainability Head Wesley Caballa, â€œHamilo Coast is located right at the apex of the Verde Island Passage, which boasts of an incredible array of marine species. As an organization with sustainability at the forefront of its operations, we ensure that we take good care of the environment from ridge to reef. Through the help of WWF, several sustainability programs have been incorporated in our development.â€ The benefits have since cascaded to locals.
“Ang huli ng mga manlalambat ay umakyat ng dose kilos kada-araw. May dagdag namang isang kilo kada araw ang huli ng mga namimingwit. Mas-marami po ito kaysa dati sapagkat naprotektahan na ang mga tirahan ng isda,â€ testifies Adelito Villaluna, a local fisherman who has plied the bountiful waters of Nasugbu for years.
â€œCoral reefs give millions of people food and livelihoods,â€ addsÂ WWF-Philippines President & CEO Joel Palma. â€œHowever, they are threatened by plastic waste, which smothers delicate corals. Climate change effects such as global warming also lead to coral bleaching, turning once-productive reefs into graveyards coated by algae.Â Reef StrokesÂ shows how our collective â€˜strokesâ€™ will take us to the finish line, which is a world where productive oceans continue to gift Filipinos with food, jobs â€“ even the very air we breathe.â€
Globally-renowned coral reef expertÂ Dr. Wilfredo LicuananÂ presented his findings during the event while highlighting the importance of incorporating scientific knowledge with advocacies. Dr. Licuanan adds, â€œWhen you combine a cause with science, partner with advocacy groups like WWF, and enlist the aid of athletes who experience nature first-hand, then we can create a bigger impact. We hope this inspires more people to conserve our natural resources.â€
Top airline Cebu Pacific has also been WWFâ€™s ally in conserving Philippine reefs, working to protect both the Tubbataha Reefs and Apo Reefs since July 2008. â€œCebu Pacific will remain a strong advocate of WWF’s environmental conservation initiatives. We are committed to help coastal communities adapt to climate change to fight global warming,” addsÂ CEB Vice President for Corporate Affairs Atty. JR Mantaring.
Reef StrokesÂ was organized by WWF, Hamilo Coast, Pico Sands Hotel, Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club and Cebu Pacific Air.(WWF press release)