MANILA, Philippines – It is no secret that the Philippines is host to one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park within the Sulu Sea. Such a natural gem made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Indeed, it is one of the most important marine ecosystems on the planet, providing not just beauty and biological diversity, but food and sustenance.
To showcase the marine sanctuary’s bountiful paradise and ecological systems, the Don Antonio Floirendo Foundation recently launched “Tubbataha: A National Treasure” with support from Shell companies in the Philippines, among the Tubbataha Management Office’s longest private sector partners.
In an interview with The STAR, Pilipinas Shell country chairman Cesar Romero said the company has long supported the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
Shell’s support to the marine ecosystem is consistent with the company’s thrust.
“We do our business in a dutiful way. We continue to produce energy but at the same time operate responsibly and help in the environment. This is not mutually exclusive,” Romero said as he explained that an energy company like Shell could do its part in protecting the environment.
“The world needs energy. We can’t ignore that energy is important. It is important for societal development but it should be done in a way that is not harmful to the environment,” Romero said.
The book features photographs by Maria Teresa Lara, a diver and photographer who has been exploring Tubbataha for the past 20 years.
Journalist Alya Honasan wrote the photo captions, with contributions from some of the country’s foremost marine biologists.
In her speech during the launch, publisher Marissa Floirendo said the Tubbataha reef has always been fascinating.
“I have been diving there for a lot of years,” she said.
“Tubbataha is not only a beautiful place. It is also ecologically valuable. It is a nursery for corals and marine species. It also serves as sanctuary for migratory birds, as you see in the background. This is not from another country. This is from our country,” she added.
Together with Lara, Floirendo said they decided to come up with the book to show the world the beauty of Tubbataha and how it has been preserved all these years.
“We put this book together, as a concerted effort to give you a glimpse of what is possible when people care. I hope you enjoy this book as much as we did making it, and thank you again for your support,” she said.
In his message during the book launch last Nov. 9 at Manila Polo Club, Romero stressed the importance of telling the story of Tubbataha as a bountiful natural heritage.
“These powerful images, combined with meaningful information, will go a long way in winning the hearts and minds of the public in preserving and protecting this national treasure on which so many depend as a spawning ground of fish and other marine animals,” Romero said.
The company’s support for Tubbataha’s conservation began in 2007 when its social arm, Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. assisted the Tubbataha Management Office in developing its business plan with technical support from Shell International and the UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Supporting the book is also part of Shell’s thrust to power growth more sustainably and uphold the welfare of communities and protect high biodiversity areas.