Filipino Scientists Sail to Contentious West Philippine Sea for Research Expedition

Media Release:

A team of 74 Filipino scientists and crew headed by Balik Scientist Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda has sailed to the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea for a two-week expedition.

PCAARRD South China Sea Onda

Balik Scientist Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda.

The expedition aimed to establish baseline data that will further understand the responses of threatened marine ecosystems to the changing environment.

Conducted from April 22 to May 6, 2019, the joint expedition was a collaboration among the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB).

The activity is under the project, “Predicting Responses between Ocean Transport and Ecological Connectivity of Threatened Ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea (PROTECT-WPS).”

It was the first time that DENR-BMB, DA-BFAR, and UP-MSI — the three primary institutions tasked to do research in the Philippine seas and oceans — headed to the Kalayaan Group of Islands together after many years of separate research and expedition in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In the media briefing prior to the expedition, Dr. Onda expressed his optimism for the state of marine science research in the Philippines, citing among others the number of women researchers joining the cruise.

RV Kasarinlan makes maiden voyage 

“In this team, the women outnumber the men,” Onda disclosed.

PCAARRD South China Sea reefs

Photo source: DOST-PCAARRD.

With a relatively young crew aged 21-59, Dr. Onda saw it as a compliment that young people are actively involved in implementing and executing marine science research in the country.

Onda also underlined the role of the Coordinated National MSR Initiatives and Related Activities in Philippine Waters 2019 (CONMIRA 2019) of the National Coast Watch Council Secretariat who were instrumental in facilitating and promoting an inter-agency and multidisciplinary research.

The joint expedition also marked the maiden voyage of RV Kasarinlan, UP-MSI’s first oceanographic research vessel, according to Dr. Cesar L. Villanoy, UP-MSI’s deputy director for Research.

On the other hand, Dr. Fernando P. Siringan, UP-MSI director, said that the expedition is foreseen to provide vital information in the proper use, monitoring, management, and conservation of the country’s rich marine resources.

Inasmuch as a lot of coral reefs in many Philippine islands are deteriorating, Dr. Siringan added that it would likewise prove their role in repopulating the receding or damaged reefs in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

The expedition is one of the activities of Dr. Onda as a Long-term Balik Scientist hosted by the UP-MSI since 2018.

Trained in both the tropics and the Arctic region, Dr. Onda is one of the few microbial oceanographers in the country. He holds a PhD in Oceanography from the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada. (DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services)


Featured image of map courtesy of Wikipedia.

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