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DENR chief joins Pag-asa Island research expedition

MANILA, Philippines — Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga has visited Pag-asa Island, coinciding with the arrival of the M/V Panata research vessel of the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) for its bi-annual research expedition to the Kalayaan Island Group and West Philippine Sea.

The DENR team was joined by experts from the UP-MSI led by Fernando Siringan, Jose Fernando Alcantara and Rolando Tolentino.

They were met on Pag-asa Island by Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos and Kalayaan Municipal Mayor Roberto del Mundo.

A site inspection was conducted surrounding Pag-asa Island, including Sandy Cay 2.The DENR, UP-MSI, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and Wescom teams discussed with Del Mundo and other Kalayaan government officials plans to expand research and monitoring in Pag-asa Island and peripheral areas.

Loyzaga added that scientific studies have established that the marine ecosystem in the Kalayaan Island Group is a critical biodiversity area, crucial for the sustainable supply of fish and coral larvae in the Philippines and the region.

“The discussion was on the environmental sustainability of the island and the research needed for understanding of marine environments and value of these ecosystems to livelihoods, food security in the Philippines and the region and the global need to ensure the ocean’s climate regulatory functions.

Given the implications, we need to actually determine an ecological boundary rather than administrative lines,” Loyzaga said. Loyzaga visited the research station of UP-MSI on Pag-asa, where the team is in the thick of field and oceanographic surveys as part of the period monitoring of the immediate environment around the island.

The research is partly funded by the Philippine Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System project of the national government. They boarded the research vessel for a site inspection and docked at Sandy Cay 2, an islet just two miles off Pag-asa Island to check the crushed corals littered on the beach.

“This further facilitated our discussion on the partnership between the DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau and