Part II – Conserving, Protecting, Documenting, and Publishing the Philippines’ Marine Resources

Following my ‘graduation from government service’, I have shifted my study area to the waters of the 6 provinces of Eastern Visayas, not only because I am from Leyte, but because Region 8’s rich marine natural resources have remained very anemically studied. More or less, I can now talk authoritatively on the marine macro-algae of Biliran Province – my study area since my Philippine National Museum (PNM) days starting as a fledgling seaweed researcher. Also, I acknowledge the financial research funds from the PNM, UNESCO Philippine National Commission, and DOST Region 8. Now, I have moved to Leyte Province with research funds from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP). The province has been phycologically divided into Northeastern Phase (survey, documentation of its seaweed flora already completed, final report awaiting publication by the NRCP), and Northwestern and Southern Phases of the Island, with funds coming from the same agency aforementioned. For the 3 provinces of Samar Island, only a few more coastal towns of Northern, Eastern, and Western provinces have remained to be botanized, yet – Samar island having been included in the PNM funded research under the project on “The Marine Algae of the Philippines”. It might be well to mention that my efforts to hasten the study of the macro-algae/seaweeds of Region 8, have been made lighter following support of my Masters Degree Graduate Students from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), thus: Sis Hermelina Puig (Biliran Province), Ms. Patria Castronuevo (Eastern SamarProvince), and Mr. Ceasar Adriasola (Northern Samar). My research data and those contributed by my theses advisees consisted of accounts on the rich growth of Sargassum in Eastern Visayas, especially along its Pacific corridors, ecologically rich because of its being in the Tropics. The thick and tall growths of Sargassum along the St. Bernardino Strait, between Sorsogon and Northern Samar Provinces as well as the same seaweeds’ dominance in the ‘central’ coastal towns of Leyte have convinced me to use the sobriquet of “Sea-Forest of Leyte Gulf”, referring to the rich and luxuriant population of brown seaweeds dominated by Sargassum and Hormophysa triquetra (=Cystoseira triquetra), an equally large brown algae. Indeed, our call (amongst Filipino Marine Biologists), is for concerned government offices to put more sharper teeth, to the Fishery Law and other related administrative memoranda to stop the “rape” of the seaweed resources of the Philippines! Unless we are prepared to destroy our marine ecosystem that “basically provides a life support system to most aquatic marine organisms.” And, that “the natural re-colonization and recovery of damaged sea grass and algae areas would take decades.” To this, I would like to add, that most edible seaweed species or sea vegetables (e.g. Caulerpa racemosa ‘Lato’, Codium ‘Ambang’, Eucheuma and Kappaphycus ‘Guso’, Gracilaria ‘Gulaman-dagat), Sargasssum ‘Aragan’, Hydroclathrus clathratus ‘Balbalulan’, and Porphyra ‘gamet’ are rich in protein, carbohydrate, and iodine needed by the human body. While, sea grass are used as pollution indicator and some species (Thalassia hemprechii) is eaten in northern Philippines! With the quoted statements, we, however realize the gigantic role people expect from DA and BFAR to marshal the country’s long coastal line and should therefore realize the need to link with other offices (LGUs specifically), NGOs, the academe (SUCs and HEIs), and S & T Organizations, e.g. Society of Fishery Technologists of Eastern Visayas (SOFTEV), Federation of Freshwater and Marine Institutions (FIMPS), Philippine Association of Marine Sciences (PAMS), NRCP Visayas Regional Cluster, among others, primarily to educate the dire need to protect, preserve, and conserve the country’s aquatic resources.

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