Ocean Month: Think blue, keep marine ecosystems healthy



“The month of May is the peak fishing season in the Philippines, an appropriate occasion for direct beneficiaries to show their support for management initiatives pertaining to the oceans.” This was among the rationale for Presidential Proclamation 57, signed in 1998, declaring May as the month of the ocean in the Philippines.

The direct beneficiaries of the sea are not only those who derive income from it – the fishermen, and a wide variety of coastal businesses – but all humans and animals who benefit from a healthy ocean. 

The Philippines, being an archipelago, is blessed with vast coastal and ocean resources which provide economic and ecological benefits. It has one of the world’s most diverse marine biodiversity with an extensive system of coral reefs sprawling over more than 27,000 square kilometers. Coral reefs are known as the “rainforest of the sea” where 25 percent of the ocean’s fish rely on for shelter, food and reproduction.  Any activity such as plastic pollution and rising ocean temperatures cause a ripple effect that will affect the health and growth of our food supply.

The importance of healthy oceans cannot be over-emphasized. This year, the Month of the Ocean campaign launched by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) focuses on the theme “Develop a sustainable and equitable blue economy.”

“The campaign aims to inform, educate, and inspire action among Filipinos and the global community to address ocean-related issues and to cultivate a deep appreciation for the ocean's role in climate action,” CCC said.

“Oceans are the lifeblood of our planet, and also our frontline against climate change. Our actions today will determine the health of our oceans tomorrow. We all have a role to play in ensuring their protection and sustainability,” said CCC Vice Chairperson and Executive Director Robert E.A. Borje.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the agency mandated to lead the yearly celebration with the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), launched the campaign in San Fernando City, La Union last week.  A forum and lectures on laws governing the use of the foreshore areas, salvage zones and coastal waters, ocean resources and its conservation were held by DENR-1 for stakeholders and students.

Government action is needed to implement laws to conserve our marine ecosystem, such as the Extended Producer Responsibility Act (Republic Act No 11898) which lapsed into law in July 2022.  The law requires large enterprises to recover a specific portion of their waste from packaging, or face large fines.

The country’s solid waste problem still persists. Reports have shown that many people do not have access to proper waste disposal facilities, and garbage collection still remains a problem in many areas. Waste eventually ends up in the ocean and affects the coral reefs, polluting the source of food and shelter of marine life. And the cycle continues.

The importance of the sea to the economy and the livelihood of Filipinos is recorded in the reports of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). In a report published in October 2023, the country’s  “ocean economy grew by 21.1 percent in 2022, posting a gross value added of ₱857.74 billion from ₱708.10 billion in 2021.”

“The top three marine-based industries with highest growth were coastal accommodation and food and beverage services activities (248.3 percent), coastal recreation (161.7 percent), and offshore and coastal mining and quarrying (56.3 percent).”

For the rest of the month of May, think “blue.” It is our responsibility to protect our oceans and marine resources.