Bringing back the corals in Guimaras’ waters

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

Seventeen years after the tragic oil spill in Guimaras Island’s waters, a service organization, partnering with Iloilo’s top maritime school, is still pushing to bring back its vitality by reintroducing corals to its ecosystem.

Junior Chamber International (JCI) Regatta initiated its CORAL Project: Guimaras Island Coral Restoration Program last March 22, in honor of World Water Day, and in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number 14 (Life under Water) of the United Nations.

This was also done in partnership with Stolt Tankers, scholars of the marine transport company Stolt-Nielsen, and the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University (JBLFMU), with support and assistance from the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Guimaras Provincial and Nueva Valencia Municipal governments, Iloilo City Councilor Sedfrey Cabaluna, and Gerbo Dive Resort.

Two artificial steel beds with coral fragments, otherwise known as a Coral Nurture Unit (CNU), were submerged into the waters of Puerto del Mar in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, one of the towns most affected by the 2006 oil spill along the Panay Gulf.

The coral fragments were harvested from Coral Outplanting Projects (COPs) from the Igang Bay Marine Sanctuary which was also located within the town.

The project is a part of an effort started in 2016, a decade after the oil spill, to rehabilitate affected coral areas in the island’s waters.

JCI Regatta’s 2024 President Rommel Terante, told Daily Guardian that the program was “an extension of our commitment in safeguarding underwater ecosystem, aligning with this year’s call to action, ‘Launch Out Deeper’.”

“We hope to see improvements in the sanctuary and the eventual return of marine life in the area,” he added.

Stolt-Nielsen Philippines’ Continuous Improvement Expert and JCI Regatta Executive Vice President Joey Infante, a Guimarasnon himself, said that this brings hope to locals who wish to see the return of rich marine biodiversity in the island.

“As a seafarer and an islander from Guimaras Island, this project is close to my heart. I have witnessed the destruction of coral reefs on the island and Seeing Stolt Tankers, JBLFMU and JCI Regatta work on a project as such motivates me to further this cause,” he said.

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