DENR, DOE, ‘big 3’ firms tie up to protect, conserve Verde Island Passage’s marine ecosystem



The Philippine government has partnered with three of the country’s biggest corporations to protect and conserve the massive marine ecosystem of Verde Island Passage or VIP, also dubbed as the “center of the center” of the world’s marine shore fish biodiversity, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Monday, May 7.

Through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) inked on May 7, the DENR, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the big three – Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV), the Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), and San Miguel Corporation (SMC) – agreed to assume joint stewardship of the critical waterway between Luzon and Mindoro islands.

“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 (VIP),” said DENR Secretary Maria Antonia “Toni” Yulo-Loyzaga.

The partnership, per the DENR, aims to prioritize enhancing the livelihoods of communities in the VIP area, providing them with opportunities for dialogue to voice their concerns, and ensuring sustainable access to and utilization of coastal and marine resources.

According to the environment department, the key objectives of the partnership go hand in hand with the government’s clean energy agenda through resilient and sustainable low-carbon development in the VIP.

“The MOU will effect for five years from today (May 7)  with possible extension, and with funding from each of the five signatories that will ensure VIP and the nearby provinces will thrive as a marine protected area,” the agency noted.

The DENR chief emphasized that the signing of the MOU aligns with the Philippines' participation in the UN Decade of Ocean for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). These initiatives aim to advance ocean science, raise awareness, and create opportunities for the sustainable development of extensive marine ecosystems.

“A salient provision of the MOU requires the parties to ‘establish a marine science biological research station with facilities’ in VIP and across the five provinces nearby in partnership with higher educational institutions such as the UP Systems, De La Salle University and the California Academy of Sciences,” the agency stated.

Loyzaga said the DENR has declared VIP a marine protected area but the local government units (LGUs) in the five provinces want it “legally protected” with the full force and effect of the law to deter potential violators.
The VIP is one of the Philippines’ busiest marine corridors leading to the ports of Manila to Visayas and farther down Mindanao, the DENR noted.

The environment department said the VIP, which spans the waters between Luzon and Mindoro islands, is a crucial waterway that encompasses the provinces of Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, and Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Occidental Mindoro, and Oriental Mindoro.
“Its strategic location places it at the heart of the Coral Triangle, a vast expanse renowned as the global epicenter of marine life diversity, encompassing countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste,” the DENR said.

The VIP serves as the habitat of over 1,700 marine species, including 60 percent of the world's shorefish species, and 300 coral species.

“This concentration of marine life underscores the urgent need for its conservation and protection to maintain ecological balance not only within the Philippines but also on a global scale,” the agency said.