Maritime awareness month kicks off in Malacañang

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to approve a national marine policy, which seeks to restore the marine and coastal ecosystem, as part of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo) 2018 that kicked off on Monday in Malacañang.

During a ceremony held at the Mabini Building’s social hall, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Ong said the country’s maritime stakeholders, to be led by the National Coast Watch System (NCWS), will have a convergence conference from Sept. 25-26 to finalize the draft of the national marine policy.

“This policy will be submitted to the President for approval,” Ong said.

Ong represented NCWS chairman and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea who joined Duterte in his official seven-day trip to Israel and Jordan.

Ong said the national marine policy is a single-unifying document, which seeks to lead 80 percent of poor Filipinos living along coastal areas out of poverty.

“Most importantly, this document aims to lay down a path to restore the health of our marine and coastal ecosystem,” he said.

Also to highlight the MANA Mo 2018 is the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)’s national fish conservation week slated from Sept. 16 to 22.

Ong said the International Coastal Clean-Up (ICC) will also be conducting clean-up drives in various parts of the country on September 15.

With this, Ong encouraged Filipinos to join the festivities and activities of the MANA Mo 2018, which he declared open.

“As we all join (these) festivities and activities of this month, may we have a renewed and heightened appreciation of our maritime heritage and may this heritage inspired all of us to protect coast and seas and to work even harder for the future of our blessed nation,” Ong said.

In 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 316 declaring September as MANA Mo to enhance awareness and consciousness of the Filipinos on the country’s vast maritime and archipelagic features and its potentials.

The world MANA comes from an Austronesian language and means power, effectiveness and authority.

The MANA Mo 2018 theme is “Inclusive and People-Centered Development for Maritime Heritage Awareness”.

Ong, along with other officials including Undersecretary Jose Luis Alano of the National Coast Watch Council (NCWC), led the ribbon-cutting of the MANA Mo Pulography Exhibit 2018 from Sept. 3 to 7 at the ground floor of Mabini Building.

The exhibit showcases images of array of reef fish, algae, coral reefs and other marine life taken at the Philippine Rise (formerly known as Benham Rise); replica of Philippine Navy’s ships; and the 2017 ICC results.

The ceremony was also attended by heads and representatives from the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group, Oceana Philippines, BFAR, among others.