A Delicate Balance: Preserving the Philippines' Marine Biodiversity Hotspot

May 20, 2024

The Philippines boasts incredible marine biodiversity, ranking among the world's top hotspots. With an estimated 500 unique species, including 38 found nowhere else, its coral reefs teem with life. However, this incredible underwater world faces a major threat: plastic pollution. The Philippines currently holds the unfortunate distinction of being the world's biggest ocean plastic polluter, dumping a staggering 2.7 million tons of plastic annually, with a significant portion ending up in the ocean. This plastic poses a dire threat to marine life. From entanglement and ingestion to microplastic contamination, plastic is disrupting the entire marine ecosystem. Coral reefs, crucial for healthy oceans, are particularly vulnerable – studies show plastic exposure increases their chance of contracting disease by 89%. Fortunately, there's hope. The recently passed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Act aims to tackle this issue head-on. This law enforces responsible waste management and plastic reduction, potentially offering a pathway towards a cleaner future for the Philippines' precious marine environment.

The Philippines is a marine biodiversity hotspot. Located within the Coral Triangle, it is at the center of the highest marine biodiversity in the world. As many as 500 species are estimated to thrive in Philippine waters, with 38 of them being found nowhere else in the world.

Photo credit: Greenpeace

However, this marine wonderland faces a growing threat – plastic pollution.  The Philippines currently ranked highest in global ocean plastic contributors, discharging a staggering 2.7 million tons of plastic annually, with over half a million tons ending up in the ocean.

Plastic waste poses a great threat to all ocean wildlife. It takes only 14 pieces of ingested plastic to kill a sea turtle, and one million seabirds die each year from plastic-filled stomachs. Equally concerning are the effects of ocean plastic that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Microplastics, tiny fragments of plastic debris, concentrate harmful toxins as they enter the food chain, poisoning marine life.  These plastics can also harbor harmful pathogens, further endangering the health of the ecosystem. Coral reefs, the cornerstone of healthy marine environments, are particularly susceptible.  Studies show that coral exposed to plastic has an 89% increased chance of contracting disease, threatening the very foundation of this underwater metropolis.

Photo credit: Greenpeace

Hope, however, exists.  The recently enacted Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Act offers a vital step towards a solution. Passed in 2022, this law mandates responsible waste management and plastic reduction, aiming to curb the Philippines' plastic footprint.