Saving Subic Bay’s dying coral reefs

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT: An environmental group and a beach resort here have joined hands in an effort to save dying coral reefs in Subic Bay.

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Sangkalikasan Producers Cooperative, a non-government organization (NGO) at the forefront of reviving corals damaged by pollution and other destructive human activities and All Hands Beach, one of the popular beach resorts inside the Subic Bay Freeport have jointly undertaken a government-funded Reef Restoration Program in Subic Bay that started in August last year, in an attempt to restore coral fragments.

All Hands Beach, noted for its water condition ideal for coral restoration has been chosen as site for the coral transplantation.

Jose Rodriguez, project leader of Sangkalikasan, said their group initially set up at least four Coral Nursery Units (CNUs) near Grande Island also located in Subic Bay.

“We had to transfer our nurseries to All Hands Beach since the first site became almost inaccessible,” Rodriguez said.

He added that aside from the condition of the water at All Hands Beach being ideal for coral restoration, the resort management has been very supportive of the project.

“Not only is the water very clean and clear, the water temperature is suitable for coral growth,” Rodriguez noted.

He said that the chosen project site also allows a maximum amount of light to penetrate through the bottom of the sea where the CNUs are placed.

“The management of All Hand Beach is dedicated to make this program a success and we’re hoping that other beach resorts and coastal communities will follow suit,” he added.

The Sangkalikasan coral restoration program is being funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Subic Bay in Zambales has been identified as one of the nine project sites in the country under such program.

Other sites are Bohol, Sarangani, Bataan, Palawan, Camiguin, Zamboanga del Norte, and Ilocos Norte.

The All Hands project in Subic Bay involves a 3,000-square meter area about 400 meters way from the shoreline.

Rodriguez’ group has placed four CNUs, each designed to hold at least 500 corals of opportunity (COPs) or coral fragments.

Sangkalikasan has been applying the “Filipinnovation,” technology in implementing the coral transplantation project which seeks to roll out coral transplantation technology using asexually reproduced corals to improve productivity of coral resources for sustainable fisheries.

Filipinnovation involves the collection of dislodged live coral fragments and attaching them to CNUs for quick recovery and regeneration to increase survival rates upon transplantation in degraded coral reef sites.

The CNU design makes use of marine epoxy, nails and cable tie.

The program has established a total of 538 CNUs and transplanted 487,158 coral fragments since 2013.

According to Rodriguez, coral reefs revival greatly helps in protecting the coastal communities as these diverse ecosystems provide natural barriers, improve marine habitats and create an underwater tourism industry.

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