How do we protect the VIP?
The Verde Island Passage is a hotspot of biodiversity with a range of economic, aesthetic, and community benefits. In order to properly protect it, we need a holistic approach to conservation that engages all sectors of society.
The challenge is that the high populations in the communities surrounding the VIP make it vulnerable to a number of environmental threats such as improper waste disposal, plastics, and destructive fishing methods. It is especially difficult to protect the VIP due to it's geography, as it stretches across many different local government units and provinces.
Despite these challenges, the VIP is not beyond help due to its incredible resilience. There are so many species stretching across the local web, that when one goes extinct, another can easily take its place, allowing the VIPs reefs to recover when impacted by environmental threats. This resilience does not alleviate us of the responsibility of protecting it, but it instead invigorates us to ensure that such a wondrous display of nature is here for generations to come.
Science, Education, and Advocacy
The grounding principle behind our conservation efforts is sound scientific data and methods. Reef monitoring surveys are regularly conducted by SEA Institute to track the health of marine ecosystems over time. This data helps identify the threats faced by the VIP, as well as the best areas in which to focus in order to protect it. Research is also useful in that it can help quantify the value of the VIP, encouraging local stakeholders stewardship.
SEA Institute also directs education and awareness campaigns in the local communities around the VIP to encourage a sense of responsibility and stewardship of the ecosystem. These campaigns are based on scientifically-accurate information and are spread primarily through various Ecocamps in the VIP.
Cooperation from the local communities is absolutely paramount, as there is no sustainable way to practice conservation if the most-affected stakeholders of the VIP are not involved. This cooperation needs to be rooted in scientific fact, which shows the value of the VIP to the communities, encouraging community involvement.
This involvement includes the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by local governments, which need to be monitored by “Bantay Dagat” units. The creation of MPAs necessitates an alternative source of livelihood for those who used to rely on the VIP for their day-to-day needs. SEA Institute aims to address this with livelihood centers that offer training and entrepreneurial opportunities, such as the one in Barangay San Teodoro.
Our three-pronged approach of science, education, and advocacy aims to conserve the VIP area by using a holistic approach with an emphasis on local shareholder involvement. If properly executed, this holistic approach will eventually empower the local communities to be their own watchdogs, preserving the VIP for generations to come.