Calamba City, Laguna - In celebration of World Water Day and Philippine Water Week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) CALABARZON, through its Regional Strategic Communication and Initiatives Group (RSCIG) has partnered with the ABS CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. (AFI) for the conduct of their Citizen Science Workshop on Reef Monitoring at Mabini, Batangas last March 29-30, 2023.

Mr. Joal Ascalon, Program Head of the Bantay Kalikasan under the AFI, shared that the citizen science workshop activity is part of the three-year INSPIRE Project under the AFI, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) targeted towards the protection of the coral reef systems within the Verde Island Passage and the Sibuyan Sea.

Further, Mr. Roel Quenamot, AFI Project Manager shared that the purpose of the INSPIRE project is to establish a Conservation Academy at the end of its implementation. The scope of the project covers Lobo, Mabini, Tingloy, and Batangas City in the province of Batangas, as well as parts of Mindoro and Romblon. For Mabini, Mr. Quenamot shared that the first step is the mobilization of the free diving community as part of the Alwan Methodology. He emphasized that due to the continuous threats of climate change, it is also important to include the community with the various research being conducted for the conservation of the area. He also highlighted the significance of the free dive community in the ecological assessment, data gathering, and monitoring of coral reefs.

Alwan Method was introduced by Mr. Alexis Prinsipe of the DLSU Shields FSC Ocean Research (SHORE) Center. The alwan method, which came from the Batangas dialect, “maalwan” which means “at ease”, is an easier method of reef monitoring. He also expressed that this activity shall be a way to forge partnerships with the free diving community to solicit feedback on the alwan method and to further strengthen its safety measures.

In addition, Mr. Robert "Bobbit" Suntay, President of the Science, Education and Advocacy (SEA) Institute emphasized the importance of Mabini being the epicenter for marine biodiversity and free diving.

The DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria, represented by the Chief of CENRO Lipa Conservation and Development Section, Josefa M. Lozada, shared that Mabini has been an area of implementation for various conservation and protection efforts due to its proximity within the Verde Island Passage. Mabini is also identified as the center of the center of marine biodiversity and the heart of the coral triangle.

She disclosed that the DENR CALABARZON, through its CENRO Lipa has conducted various activities in the area that are in line with the Municipality’s Integrated Coastal Management Plan. She also shared that there are two (2) established Marine Protected Areas (MPA) within Mabini, which are the Solo-San Jose and Yellow-Red Rock MPAs. Further, numerous underwater and coastal clean-up activities, dubbed as the “ScuBasurero”, are being strategically conducted by the Agency.

The Green Fins Approach is also being pushed by the Agency, which aims to promote environmentally friendly diving and snorkeling activities. Community awareness lectures, distribution of Information, Education and Communication materials, mainstreaming of ICM Plans, and mobilization of dive shops are some of the activities that are also being implemented under the Green Fins Approach.

Also, as part of the ridge-to-reef approach of the DENR, the Agency also conducts programs and activities in line with the National Greening Program (NGP), such as various tree planting initiatives and establishment of NGP Sites.

Further, in light of the recent oil spill in the waters of Mindoro, DENR CALABARZON calls for strengthened collaboration among NGAs, LGUs, and the community. ###