MANA Mo: Our Oceans as ‘Mana’ for all

By Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos |September 09,2018 - 11:25 PM

Atty. Gloria Ramos

September is designated as the month for us to take stock of and encourage citizens, young and old, and all stakeholders, for that matter, to heighten the consciousness of our country, as a maritime and archipelagic nation.

In 2017, the President issued Proclamation No. 316 declaring the month of September as the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo).

“The MANA Mo aims to enhance awareness and consciousness of the Filipinos on the maritime and archipelagic features and concerns of the Philippines as a maritime domain, and be able to engage individuals, sectors and social groups to take action toward realizing our collective identity and potential as a maritime and archipelagic nation.”

The MANA Mo 2018 theme is “Inclusive and People-Centered Development through Maritime Heritage Awareness.”

The National Coast Watch Council, chaired by the Executive Secretary, which leads and coordinates the observance, explains the rationale: “it provides everyone the opportunity to take a look at our maritime culture and history and also look forward to addressing issues and concerns through the collective efforts of the Filipino people.”

“Mana” in Cebuano and Tagalog means inheritance. Our ocean forms a distinct part of our natural heritage and culture and must be protected and conserved for the present and future generations.
Our oceans are in crisis and in dire need of our focus and attention to protect and sustainably manage it.

While our country is acknowledged as the ‘global center of marine biodiversity,’ and thus the compelling need to protect the species of corals, seagrasses, mangroves and fisheries in our waters, ironically, our development paradigm and policies are focused largely on terrestrial concerns.

ADB’s State of the Coral Triangle: Philippines Report notes that “While the country’s total land area is approximately 300,000 square kilometers (km2) and its coastline is 37,008 km, its complete territory, including its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is about 2 million km2.”

It adds that “Of the 80 provinces, 62 (78%) have coastlines, while 17 are landlocked. Of its cities and municipalities, 832 (56%) are located on the coast (CRMP 2001).”

While laws and regulations abound to govern coastal and marine concerns, there are implementation issues due to “conflicts between policies, lack of interagency coordination, and lack of either the institutional capacity or the financial resources necessary for their full implementation.” (State of the Coral Triangle: Philippines)

Apart from weak enforcement of laws and institutional lack of capacity and coordination, the anthropogenic pressures on our oceans also include overfishing, illegal fishing, destruction of marine habitats, unrelenting coastal development and pollution. Climate change has impacted the state of our marine resources and the livelihoods of people in our coastal communities.

Thus, it is any wonder that our fisherfolk remain among the poorest of the poor?

It is time to work together, update and institutionalize the country’s Maritime Policy that is badly needed for our oceans to rebound to their former abundance.

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