Anyone who is familiar with the Philippines or have even the slightest interest in the ocean surely has heard about Apo Reef.
Undeniably, Apo Reef is famous worldwide as it is one of the Philippines’ natural treasures. In Apo Reef’s case, pictures can provide a greater narrative than words.
However, what’s not so popular are the threats to Apo Reef’s world-famous beauty.
Poachers coming all the way from the neighboring countries of Vietnam, China, Taiwan and Malaysia continue to be the biggest threat in preserving Apo Reef’s pristine ecosystem.
(A large number of marine life depends on Apo Reef. 2nd photo by Ayin Tamondong)
Sadly, the Philippine Coast Guard, due to the lack of support from the National Government, are badly equipped to protect the reef against poachers.
While the poachers use modern speed boats, the coast guard and environmental volunteers use shabby bancas with improvised electric generators as engines.
(Make-shift boats used by volunteers and coastguard to protect Apo Reef from poachers. Photo by: Camilla Carag)
They just can’t keep up to catch these poachers.
Volunteers say that in an effort to keep up, the coast guard shoots blindly into the darkness of the night in the hopes of wounding a poacher to slow them down.
(Star Gazing in Apo Reef. Photo by Ayin Tamondong)
To further highlight how the odds are stacked against the coast guard and volunteers, it should be known that there is no fresh water supply in the island. They say that in 2007, a salt water treatment facility was built on the island, but after only a few years of operation the facility failed due to the extreme salinity of the water and the high operating cost.
Fresh water has to be delivered by boat from the nearest town which is hours away.
(No freshwater is available in the island. Even this lagoon is made up of salt water. Photo by: Camilla Carag)
Isolated, badly equipped and with no water, the coast guard and the volunteers continue to stay in their post day and night.
Undoubtedly, the desire to protect Apo Reef is abundant on the part of the coast guard and the volunteers but sadly what is lacking is the support for them to properly be able to fulfill their duties satisfactorily.
It is pretty obvious why you should really go to Apo Reef.
(Apo Reef belongs to the world’s best coral reef. Photo by Ayin Tamondong)
So the question one must ask is, what can you do?
Go to Apo Reef and see for yourself the beauty of one of the remaining healthy coral systems in the world and the dedication of those who protect it against abusive poachers.
Be inspired and be dedicated yourself in protecting Apo Reef and share to others the difficulty that these honorable men protecting Apo Reef face.
If the plight of volunteers and the coast guard is made known to the majority, maybe there is hope that someone might take notice and give them the support they badly needed.
If we can’t protect what remains of the earth’s resources then what would remain of humanity?
(Yes, it is hard to figure out what the future holds when our resources are not preserved. Photo by: Ayin Tamondong)
(Niccolo Lampa, Ayin Tamondong and Camilla Carag went to Apo Reef, Philippines on April 4,2014 until April 6,2014.)
(Ayin Tamondong is a photography and adventure enthusiast. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Camille Carag is a diving enthusiast and a member of UP Marine Biology Society.)