A report this week that came out from the Tubbataha Management Office presented anecdotal evidence of an alarming rise in seawater temperature around the area never before documented by scientific monitoring.

The park superintendent of the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park stated in a Palawan News report that they are observing within the marine park an abnormally high water temperature of 31 degrees Celsius, a condition that if sustained over long periods could wreak havoc on the entire marine life of the reefs.

This vast marine protected area, one of the country’s most important marine protected areas and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is experiencing unwarranted stress that we can only hope it will be able to naturally overcome. Its corals are bleaching and the entire complex ecosystem is being disturbed as we speak.

We have already seen this happen in a global arena. The world’s largest reef ecosystem, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, had already suffered from severe degradation because of this same phenomenon, combined with other causes such as the crown of thorns outbreaks, cyclones, and pollution.

It has long been established by scientific evidence that global warming in the form of sea water temperature rise is a man-made phenomenon that needs to be addressed by today’s society. While that continues to be debated in open fora, the international community has in general set out to do something about it through agreements and protocols aimed at reducing the planet’s risk from climate change.

Science tells us that the destruction of our important marine habitats has a direct effect on our food security. It also tells us that while marine ecosystems are resilient to natural stresses, they can only take so much punishment.

These concerns need to be dealt with not only politically in the international venues but perhaps more importantly locally, as whatever constructive interventions that need to take place on the ground involves local stakeholders primarily.

It is a daunting task however, saddled as we are right now by the COVID-19 health pandemic that is more felt than any other threat including climate change.

What is happening to Tubbataha and evidently to the rest of our marine resources needs to be put out at the least and placed on the national agenda as it should. As Palawan itself is the default representation of the country’s most important natural resources, it is only fitting that the province should make its own push to bring such subject back to the national agenda.

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