2015 marks the 16th year the country is celebrating the “Month of the Ocean” (MOO). By virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 57 issued in 1999, the month of May was declared as the MOO. Activities to be conducted in observance of the MOO aims to highlight the importance and significance of conservation, protection, and sustainable management of Philippine coastal and marine resources. The Presidential Proclamation mandates the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) to spearhead the activities of MOO in collaboration with the different sectors of the society.
The significance of the ocean to human well-being is undeniable, as millions of Filipinos depend on coral reefs and their associated ecosystems, providing food and livelihood to small-scale artisanal and subsistence fishers as well as commercial fishers. Given that the Philippines is an archipelagic country composed of 7,597 islands, the development of the coastal areas is crucial, as 78% of the country’s 80 provinces and 56% of its 1,634 cities and municipalities, are located along its coasts. These ecosystems provide diverse and valuable functions and services, such as coastal protection, fisheries production, and regulation services as well as recreational, educational and aesthetic values, contributing significantly to the tourism sector as well (Padilla, 2009). Coral Reefs, and other ecosystems also improve the adaptive capacity of coastal communities against climate change as it dissipates wave energy and improves coastal stability. Moreover, the climate is being regulated by mangroves, planktons in water, and corals which take in CO2, reducing carbon in the atmosphere.
In order to address the issues of physical destruction of coral reef and its effect to the overall health of the environment, this year, the MOO celebration will focus on the importance of the coral reefs and the irreversible damage and widespread damage of coral reef destruction to the biodiversity and ecological services provided by the oceans.
In general, the goal of the MOO 2015 is to make people understand how conservation and protection of the oceans translates to a healthy and flourishing community. Specifically, MOO aims to:
1. Enhance public awareness on the current state of the oceans, and the ecosystem goods and services provided by our marine biodiversity,
2. Emphasize the effects of unsustainable coastal and marine development to the biodiversity of the oceans, and how these impact on the upland and coastal communities;
3. Encourage participation of the people in safeguarding and promoting sustainable use of coastal and marine resources by presenting ways on how they can take part in implementing the various programs on oceans
4. Call for local leaders, policy makers and private sector to integrating the sustainable management of coastal and marine environment into their planning and governance decisions;
Moreover, this year’s MOO celebrates the importance of protecting marine biodiversity to increase climate resiliency and to improve livelihoods from fisheries to ecotourism.
This year’s theme, STAND UP, SAVE OUR REEFS emphasizes the cause and effect relationship of our actions towards the environment and the ecosystem services and goods that the oceans provide to create a flourishing community. In light of the current issues in our coral reefs, we are also highlighting the need to make a stand and save our front line barriers against coastal calamities.