(Photo courtesy of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and World Heritage Site Official Facebook Page)
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Mission Blue, an international nongovernment organization that encourages worldwide action to explore and protect the ocean, has named the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) and World Heritage Site as a “Hope Spot'”, or a place that is scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean.

The international NGO also named Worldwide Fund (WWF) Philippines Executive Director Katherine Custodio and Tubbataha Protected Area Superintendent Angelique Songco as “Hope Spot Champions”.

“Today, we are pleased to announce a new Hope Spot in the Philippines: the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park! Only accessible by sea for a few months each year, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park lies in the middle of the Sulu Sea and is composed of two uninhabited atolls and a reef with reef platforms that are mostly submerged. Wildlife like whales, dolphins sea turtles, sharks, and 700 species of fish are found in these waters among more than 360 identified species of coral,” Mission Blue said in a statement on August 11.

Mission Blue emphasized that naming the TRNP as a “Hope Spot” means expanding the support for marine protected areas (MPA) in the Philippines.

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Divers with a school of blackfin barracuda (c) Tet Lara via Mission Blue

Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, hailed Custodio and Songco for their efforts in protecting Tubbataha, Southeast Asia’s sole marine world heritage site.

“I salute Trin Custodio, Angelique Songco and their partners for doing what is in their power to push for increased protection for the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Thank you for giving a voice to the hundreds of fish species, the coral, the whales, the sea turtles and many more who call these waters home,” Earle said in the statement.

Custodio hopes that this recognition will get more public involvement towards the protection and conservation of Tubbataha.

“I have full faith that Tubbataha’s designation as a Hope Spot will bring a wider audience of support for the marine park. We remain courageous and ever-committed knowing that many more people will join us as stewards of Tubbataha,” she stressed.

Hope Spot’s partners are the Provincial Government of Palawan, Municipal Government of Cagayancillo, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Saguda Palawan, Inc., Philippine Coast Guard, and Philippine Navy.

Currently, Mission Blue has launched 145 Hope Spots covering 57,577, 267 km² of ocean all over the world.


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