Crown of Thorns clean up conducted in Tawi-Tawi PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 May 2011 16:21

BONGAO, TAWI-TAWI -- Several civil society organization and individuals from different sectoral communities in Bongao have collectively grouped together to join  day-long fight and coastal cleanup for the massive removal of Crown of Thorns (COT) at the Sanga-Sanga coastal vicinity on May 1, 2011.
A day prior to the coastal cleanup, a coordination meeting was called for and held at the office of the Provincial Vice-Governor for the purpose of mobilizing and identifying resources as the cleanup to be undertaken on collaborative engagement with all concerned sectors and other stake holders in the community.

The coastal cleanup is usually one of the major activities for the ocean and coastal cleanliness drive undertaken in Tawi-Tawi by the environmental stake holders and advocates working for the common good of our mother earth in recognition of the observance of World Ocean Month throughout the whole month of May 2011. This global event is observed yearly in Tawi-Tawi by environmental stakeholders and advocates but usually most of the initiative activities undertaken to behoove said event are spearheaded by the WWF, Provincial Government and Tawi-Tawi Divers Club (TDC)

When the participants already gathered at the Philippine Air Force Sanga-Sanga Airbase, a short of briefing on the diving procedures and safety measures as well as underwater itinerary activities was conducted by Engr. Rosendo R. Reyes, TDC Club President. After the briefing, Engr Reyes said we should do this community service on a regular basis as part of our rent for enjoying the benefits and privileges provided by our mother earth.

The coastal cleanup was actively participated by the members of the following civic organizations and individual members coming from other sectors to include the Tawi-Tawi Divers Club, Inc. (TDC), Mindanao State University, Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography (MSU-TCTO), World Wild Life Fund, Inc., Philippine National Police (PNP) Provincial Police Office, Tawi-Tawi Provincial Government through the Office of the Vice-Governor and its Department of Tourism, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Naval Task Force 62, US marine corps in Tawi-Tawi, and other invited diving enthusiasts. About 100 divers who were engaged in the diving exercises not only for the extraction of the crown of thorns but including the removal of the non-biodegradable debris and pollutants found in the underwater environment. Most of the divers were from the TDC who provided most of the needed diving equipment, apparatus and facilities.

Noteworthy to mention some of these divers who joined the diving entourage were MSU-TCTO Chancellor Lorenzo R. Reyes, Prof. Felimon G. Romero of the WWF, Provincial Director P/Supt.Rodelio Ocson (DSC), Engr. Rosendo R. Reyes, TDC President and concurrently General Manager of Bongao Water District, Philippine Navy Captain Erika Kagaoan of Naval 62, Muin Noor of the BFAR, Prof. Ramon Tangon, Rasul Sabal, snorkelers, fisher folks most of whom were Sama-Badjaos that participated in the coastal cleanup.

Accordingly, there were about 500 Crown of Thorns (CoT) and other non-biodegradable debris most of which are plastic and metallic garbage collected. The collected CoT were brought to the shore line and buried in soil. This kind of marine species is considered a predator of coral reefs. It is fast mobile and regenerating marine species once inhabiting our coastal reefs that would make it totally damaged and unproductive for fish habitats. Its reef destruction could only be rekindled to its nature freshness would take several number of years for recovery. The CoT’s scientific name is Acanthaster Planci commonly known to world fishery as starfish so invasive and voracious coral eaters.

Meanwhile, Atty. Lorenzo R. Reyes, concurrently the newly elected MSU-TCTO chancellor who is a diver himself has been quoted to have said that the continuing effort of the LGU on the preservation and protection of our environment is a must and the concern of everyone in the community.

He said the MSU-TCTO is also mandated to support this kind of environmental program. Research Studies and Technical Assistance on fisheries and oceanography can be provided by the university whenever it is needed, he added.

Reyes stressed that a call for proactive fisheries management is highly sought toward the preservation and protection of our marine ecological system. He disclosed that the MSU-TCTO has envisioned a program of studies by which local people are being trained and provided with necessary expertise, knowledge and skill along the concept of managing our marine and oceanographic resources.

He revealed that recent surveys of fish density and abundance show as compared to other fishing grounds in the country, Tawi-Tawiis not yet as overfished. There are, however, clear indications that without fisheries management interventions, Tawi-Tawi’s rich marine resources would go the way of other overexploited fishing areas in the Philippines.

In another related development, the BFAR has undertaken a separate coastal cleanup at the Simandaguit, SowangKagang and Pasiagan coastal reef and the mangrove reforestation at Barangay Pahut in highlighting the observance of the world ocean month. The participants to these events were also mostly coming from the same participating groups that were engaged earlier at the coastal cleanup at the Sanga-Sanga coastal reef.

According to Mr. FaizalNahul, Director of the BFAR, the province’s fishery resources are well supported by a rich ecosystem and massive network of coral reefs, extensive sea grass, and relatively diverse mangrove forest. He said our fisheries and coastal resources are now under stress and face major ecological threats brought about by an enormous lack of natural resource management. Baseline assessments and participatory coastal resources assessment activities conducted in the province has shown increasing signs of habitat degradation and declining fish population. He pointed out that one of the causes of degradation is the presence of the Crown of Thorns in our vast coastal reefs. He lamented that efforts to manage the coastal and marine resources in Tawi-Tawi have been very limited in scopes. The BFAR had been the most important agency in terms of documenting the status of fisheries and coastal resources through marine resources management studies. Likewise, too, that BFAR has been the primary agency supporting the development of seaweeds in our various localities province-wide.