Summer has gone but most of us are left with stories to tell about our Instagram-worthy love affairs with the ocean: the massive surfing waves, the vibrant underwater world, the fine white beaches, the secret lagoons, and the hundreds of beautiful, off-the- beaten-track islands we’ve visited.

For most Filipinos though, the ocean is not just a destination; it’s a source of food and of stable livelihoods, thus the importance of being conscious that we are its stewards.

Unfortunately, the oceans as we know them might just become a distant memory, what with our bombing of our seas, choking them with garbage, emptying them of their fish populations, and contaminating them with industry chemicals.

June 8 is World Oceans Day, officially declared by the United Nations in 2008 to call attention to the importance of keeping our oceans alive and to mobilize stakeholders across the planet to protect it. It’s a crucial step as our very existence is at stake: more than half of the world’s oxygen comes from the ocean.

Fast forward to eight years later: As of 2016, more than half of the world’s big fish are gone floating landfills that are twice the size of the whole United States and described as garbage vortexes are found in the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Indian oceans; and ocean dead zones or marine deserts are expanding.

A healthy ocean is non-negotiable for us Filipinos, majority of our population live in coastal communities.

Recommendations to improve the health of our oceans put forth in the comprehensive document, Roadmap to Recovery for Philippine Seas, drafted by Greenpeace, fishers, and fisheries experts, started to become a reality with the amendment of the fisheries code to strengthen government policies against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Last year Greenpeace and its allies in civil society partnered with major hotels and restaurants to forge an agreement that only sustainably and equitably caught fish will be sourced and served in their establishments[1].

Together with key organizations, we assisted the Province of Cebu in developing and implementing an ordinance to protect all shark and ray species, and consequently built the team that helped establish the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary in Malapascua.

This World Oceans Day, we commit to move forward and continue to be part of a movement that will push our government ever closer towards the comprehensive recovery of our seas.

Greenpeace and its partners would like to meaningfully engage with the incoming Duterte administration to strategically contribute to the development and conservation of our marine resources within the framework of poverty eradication and food security for all. We call on President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and incoming Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to move forward and realize its commitment to create a separate Department for Oceans and Fisheries to address the limited capacity of a bureau to carry out the mandate of protecting our marine resources.

Saving our seas, ensuring food security, and uplifting the lives of people dependent on our ocean’s bounty, are daunting tasks that require focus and political will. All of us seatizens need to be onboard to make sure that each year we will have a reason to celebrate World Oceans Day.

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[1] Participating and supporting organizations include the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Meliomar Inc., Fairmont Hotel, Hyatt City of Dreams Manila, Marco Polo Ortigas, Marriott Manila Hotel, The Peninsula Manila, Shangri-La Hotels, Fairmont Raffles, New World Makati, Le Club, Lulu Hooch, Vask, Disciples Escoffier International Asia, Blueyou, Centre for Sustainability, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, PEMSEA and RARE Fish Forever.