Rama: Protecting Cebu City’s reef

·3 min read

When Dr. Raamah C. Rosales addressed the Cebu City Council Wednesday last week, April 20, 2022, he sounded every bit a marine researcher.

He used big words like “ecosystems,” “biotic” and “abiotic components,” and some other stuff.

Except that one time the academic failed and he said something every member of the council could relate to: “I’m very excited about this reef!”

The reef in question has been given the name Cebu City Reef; though without the necessary legislative recognition, it is just a reef in Cebu City.

But it is a special reef in the sense that it is the only reef in Cebu City that has been confirmed to exist by marine biologists. And there is a 23-page technical report to the Cebu City Council that proves its existence.

It should not even be there anymore given the decades of what Dr. Rosales called “anthropogenic activities (that) put pressure on our marine ecosystem and affect their ability to sustain ecological functions and the needs of human communities.”

Scientists like Rosales use the word “anthropogenic” to refer to environmental change caused or influenced by people, either directly or indirectly.

So, in the context of the reef in Cebu City, these activities include the garbage that people toss and which end up in the sea, and the leachate that Councilor, congressional-aspirant and scuba diver Edu Rama says is still being discharged by the Metro Cebu Development Projects-era Inayawan Landfill into the Mactan Channel.

It also includes the tons of filling material we dumped into the water to connect Kawit Island to mainland Cebu City and form the South Road Properties, and the construction of the third bridge connecting the island of Mactan to Cebu City, which President Duterte inaugurated on Wednesday, April 27.

How the corals managed to survive was what got Dr. Rosales excited.

Stress, he said, causes corals to form substances that help them cope. If these substances could be identified, isolated, and studied from specimens taken from the reef, these substances could be key to rehabilitating other coral reefs.

But that stress should not be exacerbated. Rosales recommends declaring the reef a Marine Protected Area.

Right now, despite the stressors, Dr. Rosales calculates 31.83 percent coral cover (mostly soft corals) and 23 percent algae at the Cebu City Reef. This means the reef is in fair condition.

He also noted six macroalgae families — “seaweeds” to us non-technical people — including the commercially viable Caulerpa lentillifera (lato), and the Halymenia (buwak saang), as well as four species of macroinvertebrates.

For fish, the study team found 30 species belonging to 15 families. Of that number, 12 species belonging to nine families are considered target species, or fishes that fisherfolk target to catch and sell or eat.

Rosales continued to detail what he saw and what it meant to councilors, before returning to his serious academic and somber persona at the closing.

“Policy intervention for conservation and restoration of the last remaining reef in Cebu City,” he said, is “highly recommended.”

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