The Verde Island Passage is a marine corridor located between the provinces of Batangas, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Romblon, and Marinduque. Housing 60% of all known shore fish species, over 300 coral species, and thriving reef formations, it is known as the ‘center of the center’ of marine biodiversity in the world, and is comparable to no less than an Amazon of the oceans.
In June 2023, VIP was named a Mission Blue Hope Spot - part of a global network of marine areas scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. Because of its rich biodiversity, the VIP is able to provide food, livelihood, and other benefits to two million Filipinos.
Despite its significance, the VIP is unfortunately confronted by many threats - including pollution from industrial activities in its vicinity; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive coastal developments, and impacts of the climate crisis, among others. An oil spill resulting from the February 28, 2023 sinking of a tanker carrying 900,000 liters of industrial oil is a tragic example the VIP’s particular vulnerability to such threats. The tragedy robbed thousands of fisherfolk and adjacent sectors of their livelihood for months, caused sickness among exposed communities, and endangered the marine and coastal ecosystems of the VIP and neighboring seas. The VIP’s status as a busy shipping route dictates that risks of oil spill incidents always loom, especially with the abundance of fossil fuel-based operations in the area.
The Verde Island Passage is an ecological treasure, and must thus be afforded the greatest possible protection by law.
In this regard, we sign this petition to urge the Philippine government to declare the Verde Island Passage as a protected seascape under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (ENIPAS) - with particular attention to the empowerment of fisherfolk and local communities in participating in the management and protection of the VIP, and the preservation of its rich biodiversity for generations to come.