Dr. Mudjekeewis Santos, Scientist V from the DA-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), underscored the importance of Marine Scientific Research (MSR) and the roles played by Filipino scientists in promoting a fact-driven and science-based approach to mitigating the effects of environmental degradation. This was highlighted during a public forum held on May 21, 2024, at Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT).

In his talk, “Saribuhay sa Katubigan: Bakit Mahalaga ito sa Kinabukasan ng Pilipinas” (Why Aquatic Biodiversity is Important to the Future of the Philippines), Dr. Santos highlighted the Philippines as the center of aquadiversity and discussed the threats and challenges in managing these aquatic resources effectively.

“The Philippines, being an archipelago with over 7,000 islands, is renowned as the center of aquadiversity due to its vast and varied marine ecosystems. It houses an extraordinary array of aquatic species and other marine life. Its rich biodiversity makes it a critical area for marine conservation and ecological studies,” he said.

With the opportunities, Dr. Santos cited various threats to aquatic biodiversity, including illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overexploitation, habitat degradation, pollution, alien and invasive species, and climate change.

To address these threats, he mentioned how pivotal science-based policies in ensuring laws are being implemented effectively. “Formulating fisheries policy relevant to aquatic resource management is essential for ensuring sustainable fishing practices, protecting marine biodiversity, and maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems, which are vital for food security and economic stability,” he added.

Dr. Santos’ talk was part of the project, “Paglusbog: Promoting Marine Science Research (MSR) and Bringing Scientists Closer to the People,” an initiative that aims to highlight advancements in local MSR, highlighting its importance in tackling environmental and resource management challenges in the Philippines. MSR is an important activity for the Philippines as it promotes further understanding of the seas and oceans as well as provide an avenue form cooperation for scientists. In Visayan language, “paglusbog” means “immersion”.

The initiative was led by the Marine Science Institute (MSI) of the University of the Philippines Diliman in partnership with MERF Inc, Foundation for National Interest and with the support from the US Embassy in Manila.

Other scientists and experts present in the public fora were Dr. Nygiel Armada of USAID FishRIGHT Project, Commodore Jay Tarriela of Philippine Coast Guard, Dr. Ephrime Metillo of MSU-IIT, and Dr. Deo Florence Onda of UP-MSI. ### (Rita dela Cruz)