AT least 35 student leaders from various Philippine high schools have pledged to become eco-warriors as they gear to protect the endangered Coral Triangle, known as the Amazon of the Seas.
Their vow came after they attended a youth camp in Taytay, Palawan for the Bayani ng Kalikasan (Heroes of the Environment), on Climate Change Adaptation and Coastal Resource Management.
The youth camp was one of the activities supported under Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) project on coastal and marine resources management in the Coral Triangle.
The young eco-warriors listened to lectures on a variety of topics, ranging from threatened species to environmental policies, and participated in hands-on activities that would prepare them as protectors of the Coral Triangle’s ecosystem.
The project aims to increase awareness on climate change and coastal resource management, mobilize student leaders to implement their own environmental activities, and develop networks among youth groups from different schools.
Life in the Coral Triangle
The Coral Triangle, located in the western Pacific Ocean, has been called the “Amazon of the Seas.” It is home to 600 different species of reef-building corals, six out of the seven species of marine turtles and more than 2,000 species of fish.
The Coral Triangle is a global epicenter of marine biodiversity, but it is also fast becoming a center of marine adversity.
It faces several threats related to fisheries, tourism activities, industrial development and climate change. Much work is needed to safeguard this area of ecological and economic significance.
ADB and the Coral Triangle Initiative
Launched in 2007, the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security was started by Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems.
With political endorsements from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the six countries adopted a regional action plan in May 2009 to address threats to the area and develop national action plans to guide implementation.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was asked to provide financial assistance, while ADB was requested to serve as the lead agency to organize a program of international technical and financial support.
And because the youth comprise a significant majority of the region’s population, it only seemed fitting that they play a significant role.
Youth as agents of change
What made Bayani ng Kalikasan different from other youth conferences is the emphasis on empowering the participants to become proactive agents of change in their communities.
The young eco-warriors were tasked to develop and present environmental campaign proposals.
Three of the five schools proposed mangrove reforestation projects, while two presented solid waste management programs in their school and communities.
Each of the five participating schools was given P10,000.00 (about $230) to support their project and the mentorship of the young eco-warriors for 12 months.