Written by Ma. Christine de Vera

ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI), in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Gerry Roxas Foundation, continue to support marine conservation in the Verde Island Passage by turning over equipment for coral reef monitoring using the Alwan method last March 19 at the Batangas Provincial Capitol.

The equipment, including mask with snorkel sets, fins, underwater cameras, buoys, float lines, and laminated ALWAN survey guides, has been distributed to the local government units of Batangas City, Lobo, Mabini, and Tingloy. These tools will help the local communities monitor and assess the health of the reef in the area, leading to the implementation of appropriate conservation and protection measures.

Left to Right: Wilfredo D. Racelis, Provincial Administrator, Batangas; Glen de Castro, Executive Director, Gerry Roxas Foundation; Roberta Lopez-Feliciano, Managing Director, ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc.; Paloma Adams-Allen, Deputy Administrator, USAID; Luis Awitan, Environment and Natural Resources Office head, Batangas; Pacencia Casapao, Integrated Coastal Management Officer and Budget Officer, Mabini Batangas; Engr. Januario B. Godoy, City Administrator, Batangas; and Jan-Michael Anyayahan, Sangguniang Bayan Chairman of the Environment, Lobo Batangas

Among the esteemed attendees were representatives from local government and citizen scientists. While tasked to receive the reef monitoring equipment during the ceremony, they also signal Batangas’ commitment to community-anchored sustainability.

Left to Right: Myra Emata-Stokes, Director, Office of Management and Services, USAID;
Ed Meier, Associate Director for National Security, Office of Management and Budget/White House; Wilfredo D. Racelis, Batangas Provincial Administrator; Paloma Adams-Allen, Deputy Administrator, USAID; Mark Leviste, Vice Governor, Batangas; Rebekah Eubanks, Deputy Mission Director, USAID/-Philippines and Mongolia; Rob Barton, Director, Office of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, USAID; and Roberta Lopez-Feliciano, Managing Director, ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc.

The event is a crucial step for the Investing in Sustainability and Partnerships for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Project at the Verde Island Passage. This USAID project, in which local communities play a vital role, aims to advance natural resource resilience and security through the increased participation and engagement of civil society organizations (CSOs), media, academe, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities in natural resource governance.

While the ABS-CBN Foundation carries many advocacies, the Bantay Bahura project, supported by INSPIRE, centers on marine conservation through citizen science reef monitoring. It aims to empower locals as citizen scientists within their own marine communities through workshops and the provision of underwater monitoring equipment.

“Making this equipment available to both government staff and trained citizen scientists will strengthen the [marine protected area] networks’ ability to collect reliable and actionable data. This, in turn, supports strategies for sustainable and effective management of coastal and marine resources, and crucially, the training and certification of local citizen scientists,” Adams-Allen said.

The event marked not only the turnover of equipment but also the shared commitment to sustainability and the protection of the environment.

Lopez-Feliciano, in her message, mentioned that the willingness of local governments, academic institutions, private and international organizations, and community organizations to collaborate fuels the ABS-CBN Foundation to extend efforts for its environmental advocacy.

“Our message is often to uplift and empower communities. It still is and always will be in the service of the Filipino, but I like to add an extra challenge here and to say to love nature because it will give you everything you need. So, lagi nating protektahan ang kalikasan, ” she added.