May has been declared as the “Month of the Ocean” in the Philippines through Proclamation No. 57 which states that the DENR and the Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) shall spearhead the observance of the Month of the Ocean (MOO) in collaboration with the different sectors of society through the conduct of activities that shall highlight the conservation, protection, and sustainable management of Philippine coastal and ocean resources.
In line with this year’s theme, “Buhay Dagat, Buhay Natin,” The Villar Foundation, which has since been at the forefront of environmental protection and conservation efforts, held different activities today at LPP-CHEA (Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area) off Manila Bay Area. The event aimed at giving its volunteers and supporters a chance to take part in the foundation’s different environmental undertakings.
As what Mrs. The Villar Foundation’s Managing Director, said, “This is just a continuation of our own efforts to save the environment which we have started long ago. This is just one of the series of activities that we will be having this year in line with our foundations’ 20th anniversary.”
The LPP-CHEA (Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area) is a fitting location for today’s event since this has been the center of conservation and protection efforts of different Non-Government Organizations including The Villar Foundation lately.
Recently plans to reclaim its 635.14 coastal area earned violent reactions from more than 365,849 residents from the cities of Las Pinas, Paranaque, and the Municipality of Bacoor because of its possible damaging effects to their environment, livehood, and safety. The move had also prompted Mrs.Villar to file a petition in the Supreme Court which later issued a “writ of kalikasan”. This coastal lagoon aside from it being a source of livelihood of fishermen in the area also housed a large area of mangroove trees that serve not only as natural breeding grounds of fish but sanctuaries of migratory birds as well.
This is considered as the only remaining natural coastline in Metro Manila. Since garbage problem has been threatening the area, different non-government organizations such as The Villar Foundation, Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, Diocese of Paranaque etc. stepped in to address this mounting problem. Mrs. Villar revealed that, “Nagsimula akong magkainterest dito after we have successfully rehabilitated the Las Pinas-Zapote River. Doon narealize ko na river rehabilitation doesn’t only involve technical solution, you have to learn to address the garbage problem. Sa Las Pinas, we were able to find solutions to our garbage problem. We learned to process our garbage and we psychologized people. Sinabi namin sa kanila na kailangan natin alagaan ang ating ilog kasi tayo din naman ang makikinabang dyan.” Addressing the fishermen in the audience, she said, “Kailangan din natin linisin ang dagat ng mga basura dahil ito ang pinanggagalingan ng ating kabuhayan.”
According to Mrs. Villar, the different environmental celebrations such as the Earth Month in March, Month of the Ocean in May, and Environment Month in June are fitting reminders that we should learn to protect and value our resources.
Sightings of 72 unique and endemic bird species have been reported and documented here by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, the organization that was instrumental in the rehabilitation work in the area. Wild Bird Club of the Philippines’ founder Michale Lu related that, “Whenever we go here for bird watching, we notice how garbage in the area drive these birds away. We then planned a clean-up activity. We posted invites in our facebook and twitter accounts to encourage our friends to help out. Others reposted and retweeted, next thing we knew a lot of people started coming and joining our clean up activities including The Villar Foundation.” They made a study and came up with critical points to be addressed so migratory birds, which play an important role in ensuring marine biodiversity, will continue to habitate in the area . Wild Bird Club member Gina disclosed that, “More than anything, we want residents to know that the garbage they throw in the river, it goes to here, and if we don’t address that problem, it will have a big effect on them in the long run. They have to learn to manage their garbage.”
The event was well attended by students, youth volunteers, and residents of nearby communities who were there to participate in the coastal clean-up. The members of the Makati Police were also present to help plant mangrooves in the area. And members of the Wild Bird Club initiated and organized Nature Walk and Bird Watching activities.
Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, Philippine Red Cross Las Pinas Subchapter, Youth Group of the Diocese of Paranaque, Save the Freedom Island Movement and other various organizations from Las Pinas and Paranaque also witnessed the event and took part in the different activities.
It was indeed the perfect way to celebrate The Month of the Ocean. With this year’s theme, “Buhay Dagat, Buhay Natin,” The Villar Foundation, through this event, once again managed to successfully bring across the message that successful protection, conservation and management of our marine resources is not just a job of one foundation or one organization alone but involves the collective efforts of all individuals.
For more details about the other advocacies and activities of the Villar Foundation, please visit its website: http://www.villarfoundation.org.