Verde Passage experts, leaders prepare for climate change
BATANGAS CITY --  Over 100 participants from five provinces gathered here to assess the vulnerability to climate change of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), the recognized “center of the center” of marine biodiversity in the world and the heart of the Coral Triangle.

The event marks the first time that the five provinces comprising the Verde Island Passage – Batangas, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon – come together to discuss and collectively plan to address the possible impacts of climate change to the marine ecosystems of this region and the livelihood of the people that depend on their resources.

“Climate change is real,” says Romeo Trono, Philippine Country Program Director of Conservation International, which organized the gathering in partnership with Verde Passage local governments. “Climate change has and will continue to affect our biodiversity, our fisheries, our tourism, our homes and our lives.“

Participants to the vulnerability assessment workshop include representatives from local and national government units, key stakeholder groups, marine and climate scientists, and socio-economic experts.  The three-day workshop will integrate the best available scientific information and local knowledge on climate change to be able to compile a picture of the potential impacts of climate change in the region and propose management recommendations.  The workshop will also seek to secure the commitment and plans of key decision-makers towards improving resilience of coastal communities to climate change and start working towards a climate change adaptation plan.

Discussions will focus on the Verde Passage’s vulnerability on four fronts: climate and oceanographic, coastal processes; marine biodiversity and fisheries; socio-economics aspects; and the interaction between climate change and existing human impacts.  
Secretary Heherson T. Alvarez, Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change, will also join the group to provide the national government’s perspective on addressig climate change impacts.

There are an estimated 1.7 million people living in the coastal municipalities of the Verde Island Passage. The area also hosts critical marine habitats and threatened species, which are already exposed to threats from human activities such as overfishing, pollution, foreshore development and siltation due to run-off. Climate change is expected to further exacerbate these threats, and will not only affect marine habitats and species but may also affect fisheries and the tourism industry of this extremely popular destination.

“Climate change is fundamentally altering the marine ecosystems of the VIP with serious implications for the well-being of the communities dependent on these resources,” says Dr Giuseppe Di Carlo, CI’s Manager for the Marine Climate Change Program. “This workshop will, where possible, offer concrete solutions to address climate change, so that the unique biodiversity of the Verde Island Passage can survive for future generations.”