Protect the Verde Island Passage (VIP)!
Protect the Verde Island Passage (VIP)!
Why this petition matters
The Verde Island Passage (VIP) is an underwater wilderness that stretches for more than 1.4 million hectares through the provinces of Batangas, Marinduque, Mindoro Occidental and Oriental, and Romblon. It is home to over 1,736 fish species within a 10 kilometer area, 338 coral species, and thousands of others. VIP, in fact, houses 60% of all known shore fish species in the world, making it the most biodiverse marine habitat in the planet and truly the “center of the center” of global marine shore fish biodiversity. A true natural wonder, VIP offers a vivid glimpse at the complexity of life present in nature.
The waters of this marine corridor provide food to more than 2 million Filipinos living in surrounding provinces. VIP is also a source of livelihood for millions in the coastal tourism, fishing, and shipping sectors through the Batangas, Manila, and Subic international ports. The importance of protecting the Verde Island Passage cannot be understated.
On November 8, 2006, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Executive Order (EO) 5788 ordering various government agencies to organize an Ad Hoc Task Force9 to ensure the protection, conservation and sustainable resource use of the VIP Marine Corridor. Following this, representatives of provinces around VIP and various government agencies solidified their commitment to protect VIP on March 29, 2017 through a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) creating the VIP Marine Protected Area Network and Law Enforcement Network.
Despite these commitments, however, there have been numerous developments in the vicinity of VIP that now gravely threaten it. Its diverse marine life is increasingly exposed to reckless tourism practices, chemical and water pollution, destructive industrial activity, unsustainable fishing practices, human waste, and intensifying climate change.
Most alarming among these is the expansion of a fossil fuel industry in the province of Batangas, on top of an already existing coal and gas fleet. The Philippine government and fossil fuel proponents today are pursuing massive plans to build new natural gas, more accurately fossil gas, power plants and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in Batangas. Proponents often claim that fossil gas is a ‘clean energy’ source, despite a growing global awareness that it is, in fact, destructive. These projects necessitate the construction of seawater intake and outfall structures, pier, jetty, land-based and floating storage units, regasification plants, desalination units, and material recovery facilities. Allowing these fossil gas facilities to be built and to operate will expose the VIP to frequent entry of LNG barges, and inadvertent oil spills or disposal of shipboard liquid wastes and bilge water.
There is also a risk of chemical leaks from the plants and the connecting pipelines. The power plants will regularly use the seawater to cool down its systems, releasing the water back into the VIP with warmer temperatures. There have been reports of a fisherfolk and several pawikans or sea turtles caught in the seawater intake pipe resulting in their deaths in an existing gas-fired power plant in Ilijan. Releasing water with warmer temperatures could also kill young marine life and force marine animals to move further into the sea. Such circumstances will in turn endanger the lives of local fishers who will also have to venture into deeper and more unpredictable currents to catch fish.
We, the undersigned, thus call on concerned government agencies and local government units to fulfil their mandate as dictated by EO 578. We urge them to reaffirm their commitment to protect the VIP as dictated in their MoA, and uphold the pledge they made when they took their post as public officials to prioritize the best interests of residents of their respective provinces. We also urge the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the local government of Batangas City to cease issuing permits for the establishment of fossil gas plants and LNG terminals in Batangas City. These projects and infrastructures seriously threaten life under and around the waters of VIP. The urgency of this matter is undeniable, and we demand and expect our local and national government units and agencies to act immediately.