World Wildlife Day is celebrated this year under the theme “Life below Water: for People and Planet,” which Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said could not be more timely in light of an ongoing rehabilitation of the heavily polluted Manila Bay.

“This year’s celebration reminds us of the importance of the marine life as one of the natural resources that we need to sustain, thus giving us more reasons to continue the ongoing efforts to save Manila Bay and other bodies of water in the Philippines,” Cimatu said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), together with other government agencies and local government units, launched the massive cleanup and rehabilitation of Manila Bay last January 27.

Since then, several establishments have been issued cease and desist orders, notices of violations and show cause orders for discharging untreated wastewater into the bay.

Cimatu said the government was keen to have Manila Bay rehabilitated and maintained to a level fit for swimming and other recreational activities; restored to its traditional use as a fishing ground; and reinstated as a vital wetland area.

He said that World Wildlife Day 2019 and the Manila Bay rehabilitation align closely with Sustainable Development Goal 14—Life below water, which focuses on marine species.

Meanwhile, the DENR, partnership with Save Philippine Seas and Marine Wildlife Watch Philippines, has lined up several activities to mark the local celebration of World Wildlife Day 2019 from March 2 to 5, which include a mural painting featuring marine wildlife, an art exhibit on Benham Rise and Tubbataha Reefs, film showings, awarding ceremonies, art workshops and fora on marine wildlife and their protection.

Except for the awarding ceremonies, all activities shall be held tomorrow, March 2, at SM Aura in Taguig City.

Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau said this year’s celebration serves as an opportunity to renew commitments, award deserving authorities in promoting environmental laws, and inculcate knowledge on the marine species among the youth.

Rodriguez said the DENR, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Tourism shall pursue the proposed the joint administrative order on Marine Wildlife Interaction Guidelines to set director for a more friendly wildlife watching tourism.

She said the DENR has also partnered with the United States Agency for International Development-Protect Wildlife Project for the 6th Wildlife Law Enforcement Award on March 5 at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City, which recognizes distinct individuals who have provided invaluable assistance and unqualified support to DENR in enforcing the provisions of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Act of 2001.

In its past years, the DENR has also conferred the award to more than 300 recipients from various enforcement partner agencies, civil society organizations, and private individuals.

“The awarding ceremony will also serve as a venue for the DENR to call for a stronger support and greater commitment for each of the awardees and their respective institutions to curb illegal wildlife trade,” Rodriguez added.

There will also be a simultaneous event in the afternoon of March 5 for the academe, including the 4th National Wildlife Quiz Bee “to encourage the students to give attention to wildlife both nationally and internationally and to raise their awareness on, and appreciation of, the Philippine wildlife conservation program.”

Grade 9 students from various public high schools in the National Capital Region, Region 3 and the CALABARZON region, shall be participating in the competition, which is co-organized with the US Department of Interior, International Technical Assistance (USDOI-ITAP) and the USAID-Protect Wildlife Project.

Together with the USAID-Protect Wildlife Project, there will also be a ceremonial awarding of five thesis and dissertation projects on biodiversity conservation from the University of the Philippines- Diliman, University of the Philippines – Los Baños, and the University of Santo Tomas. ###