Six legendary Filipino open-water athletes swam together to promote the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP) and educate the public about the need to conserve Philippine coral reefs.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hero of the Environment Atty. Ingemar Macarine; Frank Lacson; Betsy Medalla; Julian Valencia; Moi Yamoyam and Miguel Villanueva swam an open-water swim marathon last May 29 for Reef Strokes, an event to celebrate Coral Triangle Day and highlight the dangers of plastic pollution and climate change on the Verde Island Passage, dubbed as the center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.
"As a swimmer who regularly swims in open water, I am disheartened each time I encounter floating garbage. We swim to remind everyone that we need to act now to protect our marine resources,” says Atty. Ingemar Macarine, who was awarded by WWF-Philippines as a Hero of the Environment for his efforts in raising marine conservation awareness in his swims.
“Open-water swimmers are natural stewards of the sea, it’s important for us to inspire more people to swim and protect the beautiful Philippine seas,” adds Coach Betsy Medalla, the first to finish the 10-kilometer swim.
Since 2007, WWF-Philippines has assisted Hamilo Coast, Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club, plus Pico Sands Hotel in various environmental programs such as coastal resource management, renewable energy use, solid-waste management and ridge-to-reef conservation. Explains Hamilo Coast Sustainability Head Wesley Caballa, “Hamilo Coast is located right at the apex of the Verde Island Passage, which boasts of an incredible array of marine species. As an organization with sustainability at the forefront of its operations, we ensure that we take good care of the environment from ridge to reef. Through the help of WWF, several sustainability programs have been incorporated in our development.” The benefits have since cascaded to locals.
"Ang huli ng mga manlalambat ay umakyat ng dose kilos kada-araw. May dagdag namang isang kilo kada araw ang huli ng mga namimingwit. Mas-marami po ito kaysa dati sapagkat naprotektahan na ang mga tirahan ng isda,” testifies Adelito Villaluna, a local fisherman who has plied the bountiful waters of Nasugbu for years.
“Coral reefs give millions of people food and livelihoods,” adds WWF-Philippines President & CEO Joel Palma. “However, they are threatened by plastic waste, which smothers delicate corals. Climate change effects such as global warming also lead to coral bleaching, turning once-productive reefs into graveyards coated by algae. Reef Strokes shows how our collective ‘strokes’ will take us to the finish line, which is a world where productive oceans continue to gift Filipinos with food, jobs – even the very air we breathe."
Globally-renowned coral reef expert Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan presented his findings during the event while highlighting the importance of incorporating scientific knowledge with advocacies. Dr. Licuanan adds, “When you combine a cause with science, partner with advocacy groups like WWF, and enlist the aid of athletes who experience nature first-hand, then we can create a bigger impact. We hope this inspires more people to conserve our natural resources.”
Also participating in this event is a newly formed coalition called SEA-VIP Institute. A partnership of individuals and organizations which include First Gen, the California Academy of Sciences, plus ABS-CBN’s Bantay Kalikasan, SEA-VIP uses Science, Education and Advocacy activities to help preserve marine assets, those found in and around the Verde Island Passage. SEA-VIP envisions the formation of citizen-scientists who will drive the development and protection of an ecosystem of goods and services for the welfare of all who benefit from the bounty of the Verde Island.
Top airline Cebu Pacific has also been WWF’s ally in conserving Philippine reefs, working to protect both the Tubbataha Reefs and Apo Reefs since July 2008. “Cebu Pacific will remain a strong advocate of WWF's environmental conservation initiatives. We are committed to help coastal communities adapt to climate change to fight global warming," adds CEB Vice President for Corporate Affairs Atty. JR Mantaring.
Reef Strokes was organized by WWF, Save the Verde Island Passage Institute, Hamilo Coast, Pico Sands Hotel, Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club, Cebu Pacific Air and production group H2O.
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