Esperanza to tackle pollution in world's centre of marine life

Press release - August 15, 2006
The Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza arrived in the Philippines today, on the latest leg of her global Defending Our Oceans expedition to highlight the wonders and the environmental threats to the world's oceans and to campaign for the establishment of marine reserves.

Scientists recognize the Philippine archipelago as the world's centre of marine biodiversity, but the country's rich marine ecosystem is severely threatened by pollution from diverse sources.

"The oceans give our planet life but in return we are emptying them of fish, heating them with climate change, and filling them with toxics pollution," said Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Director. "In the Philippines, we find some of our important marine ecosystems suffocating from pollution from industries, sewage, and trash. Millions of Filipinos depend on these marine resources for survival, yet we are destroying them at an alarming rate."

This is the Esperanza's maiden voyage to the Philippines, in a journey that started from an action packed face-off with Japanese whalers in the Southern Oceans, to chasing pirate fishers in West Africa. The Defending Our Oceans expedition aims for the establishment of a global network of marine reserves, where 40 percent of the world's oceans is protected from exploitation.

In the Philippines, Greenpeace will campaign against plastics pollution in Manila Bay and draw attention to the damage being caused by Australian mining firm Lafayette's toxic spills in the marine ecosystem of the South Eastern tip of Luzon. The Esperanza will also highlight the country's successful implementation of a community-managed marine reserve in Apo Island, which now provides food and income to the host community, and will help promote it as a model for marine reserves worldwide.

The waters of the Philippines are home to over four hundred species of coral, more than two thousand fish species and are an important area for marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks and rays, including the whale shark --the world's biggest fish. However, a scientific study (1) lists the Philippines as the most highly threatened centre of unique marine species, citing the danger of mass extinction in a scale similar to that of the destruction of the Brazilian rainforests.

"The Philippine government acknowledges habitat degradation, pollution, and destructive fishing as among the most pressing threats facing the country's marine ecosystems," added Hernandez. "Yet the government's clear bias towards exploitation, as shown by its all-out support for destructive mining operations which impact on marine life, proves that the government itself has become part of the problem."

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation, which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Director, +63 917 526 3050. Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner, +63 917 803 6077 Arthur Jones Dionio, Regional Media Campaigner, +63 921 5615305

Notes: (1) Springer, V.G. & K.E. Carpenter. 2005. The center ofmarine shore fish biodiversity: the Philippine Islands. Environmental Biology of Fishes (2005)