© Greenpeace / Daniel Ocampo

I first came to Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental in the 1990s to accompany several international delegates participating in a study tour on Coastal Resource Management.  Our objective was to show a model marine reserve wherein the community, together with the government and a private institution (Silliman University) is effectively managing the marine environment.

The Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape has been a national protected area since 1994. Its long history of good management and protection since Silliman University helped the community establish the marine sanctuary on the south eastern portion of the island in 1985 has earned the island recognition from various agencies, research institutions, LGUs and even tourism operators when it was included in a publication as part of the “100 dives to do before you die”.

© Greenpeace / Daniel Ocampo

This is the reason why in 2006, Greenpeace Southeast Asia included it in the Defending Our Oceans tour and highlighted Apo Island as a ‘ray of hope’ for the world’s oceans and should be replicated and emulated in other parts of the world.

However at the end of 2011 tragedy struck the island when typhoon Sendong damaged the coral reefs around the island, particularly the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary and coral reefs located on the southeastern portion of the island. In 2012 another typhoon Pablo have struck the island and caused further damage.

© Greenpeace / Daniel Ocampo

These extreme weather events are unusual for Apo Island and the area where it is located and experts have identified climate change as a possible reason. Silliman University has been working together with the Protected Area Management Board of Apo island for the rehabilitation of the damaged areas but there is a need to prepare for the future since climate change will probably lead to more extreme weather events.

I’ve seen the marine sanctuary before the typhoons both as a visiting scuba diver and as a photographer for the Defending Our Oceans tour in 2006.  How it looks like now attests to the fact that climate change is real and we all have to work together to rehabilitate our damaged coral reefs and to stop climate change.

The rest of Apo Island’s coral reefs are still in good shape and still remains a ray of hope for the oceans.

Daniel Ocampo is a campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines. Follow him on Twitter via @dannyoPH