TACLOBAN CITY – A coral reef conservation program in Southern Leyte is sure after a United Kingdom-based coral conservatory group said that it would shut down its operation in the province amid the raging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a statement, Alistair Cole, chief executive officer of the Coral Cay Conservation, said that the organization while it was a difficult decision, they have no other recourse but to close down its Southern Leyte Coral Reef Conservation Project (LRCP) due to COVID-19 pandemic that continues to disrupt international travel and cause strain on resources and finances that demand critical action.
“This closure will be with immediate effect concerning our activities in-country and we will now instigate an exit strategy that will focus on the efficacious transfer of project deliverables to necessary parties. We will cease to accept volunteer bookings over this period for the project,” Cole said.
“This was not an easy decision to make. After several months of deliberating, internal reviews on the project’s timeframe, and the forecast of the COVID-19 pandemic proving uncertain, we have come to this decision. We aim to ensure that the achievements of the project, made possible by the support of volunteers, scholars and committed staff, over the past 20 years, are sustainable and that local stakeholders and government units can continue receiving the benefits of the project,” he added.
The group expressed their gratitude to the thousands of volunteers who had helped them in their projects, training of scholars and teams that have brought conservation and coral reefs to the forefront of hundreds of classrooms, inspiring the next generation of environmental advocates.
“Over the past 18 years, the rich biodiversity of Sogod Bay has been mapped, countless Marine Protected Areas have been established and even the smallest of conservation efforts have proved vital; all of which would not be possible without the support of the Coral Cay Conservation community,” he added.
“I would like to express my absolute gratitude for all of the support that each and every volunteer, scholar, staff member, project partner and local stakeholder has provided to the project over the years,” Cole statement ended.
The SLRCP was founded in 2002 to secure the long-term benefits and services of coral reefs and associated systems; protecting food security and supporting livelihoods of the residents in the Southern Leyte province, according to the information at the website of Coral Cay.
It aims to enhance marine biodiversity and alleviate community poverty through the evaluation, protection and restoration of coral reefs, and associated ecosystems in the province.
The project is implemented into two phases; the LRCP Phase I was from 2002 to 2012 and was founded on under the objective of assisting the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte (PGSL) in the conservation of the coral reefs of Sogod Bay for the long-term benefit and food-security of the residents of the Province.
The LRCP Phase II was undertaken between 2013 and 2018, and was founded under the objective of developing local capacity and ensuring the long-term protection and sustainable use of marine resources, through the establishment, and monitoring, of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern Leyte.
The group had been present in the country for 25 years advocating for sustainable development and protecting some of the Philippines’ most valuable natural resources.
Since the project started, Coral Cay through LRCP have undertaken over 2,400 independent surveys, collecting critical ecological, environmental and anthropogenic data, allowing building detailed picture of the current status of the area and assessing any changes over time.(ROEL T. AMAZONA)