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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesWednesday, March 9, 2011
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‘Coral study in province
shelved for lack of funds’


The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Negros Oriental cannot determine the extent of possible damage to coral reefs in the province, due to massive coral bleaching felt globally in 2010, unless funds are allocated for a thorough study.

Provincial chief Leonardo Aro of the BFAR yesterday said that his office received reports of coral bleaching in the 56-hectare Mantalip Reef in the boundaries of Ayungon and Bindoy in northern Negros Oriental, but the damage could not be ascertained after Capitol officials reportedly rejected a BFAR proposal for a cost-sharing study with the provincial government.

“It’s like we are being fried by our own lard,” lamented Aro, who further explained that the technical proposal was submitted during the incumbency of then Gov. Agustin Perdices, and upon the suggestion of Board Member Melimoore Saycon.

Aro said the BFAR labored to craft the proposal with the understanding that the Capitol would allocate around P125,000 for funding the project, originally scheduled for the first semester of this year, while BFAR would undertake the technical study.

After Perdices had died last January 5 and then Vice Gov. Roel Degamo assumed the post, the proposal had to be shelved after the  Capitol allegedly returned it to BFAR, telling the agency to fund the coral study themselves, Aro added.

Aro clarified that of the entire budget of the Department of Agriculture, only a few percent of it has been set aside for the BFAR annually, such that the agency needs the assistance and support of local government units when undertaking technical studies.

The BFAR believes that the Mantalip and other coral reefs especially in marine reserves in the province have been affected by coral bleaching last year as he stressed a need to conduct a reef vulnerability study to prevent or reduce future coral bleaching events.

Scientific studies and reports show that the world experienced an unprecedented rise in ocean temperatures in 2010, with global warming having spurred mass mortality of corals across the planet, and leaving an estimated 95 percent of the coral reefs in the Philippines dead.

Coral bleaching is an event where corals turn white due to stress-induced release of its symbiotic algae zooxanthellae -- which gives them their coloration – and while some coral colonies do recover, others die and eventually break down, and their recovery is usually affected by human disturbances such as overfishing and water pollution, Aro said.

Aro added he hopes that Capitol will reconsider the proposal and find ways to fund the technical survey, which can be done alongside the provincial Environment and Natural Resources Division.*JFP



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