Set adrift on Verde Seas

Set adrift  on Verde Seas

Verde Island is home to a rainforest of marine life, bound to dazzle diving enthusiasts, marine photographers, scientists and the academic community alike

By Paul Raymund Cortes

Published: Sun 28 Apr 2019, 5:39 PM

"I have not been to the Philippines," is a frequent line told to me by business folk, back packers, regular travellers, and the like. Admittedly, the Philippines receives less as far as tourist statistics are concerned in comparison with its Southeast Asian colleagues who rake in around 23-25 million visitors per year. Topographically, most of ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations which is composed of the 10 Southeast Asian states) are similar.
Our climate is tropical and our peoples, a warm miscegenation of the Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Western races. Obviously, attempts to explain the Philippines' less aggressive stance on tourism boils down to budget and finance. Yet as most of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the rest of Southeast Asia parade its beaches and islands as its primary draw for tourists, perhaps one determinant that could serve as the Philippines' comparative advantage is its proximity to or that it sits at the center of the center of marine biodiversity of the world, the richest conglomeration of aquatic life in the entire Coral Triangle.
Just as in the rest of Asia, the Philippines' beaches and the waters that extend from it are standard tourist fare. Philippine diving and its extended industries, however, have one advantage that no other place on earth could claim - that it is the epicenter of marine biodiversity on the planet. Verde Island Passage, a 10-mile wide strait between Batangas in southern Luzon and the island of Mindoro in Central Philippines, holds this distinction.
Located some 110 kms south from the country's megalopolis, the waters around the island, reachable through the beaches of southern Batangas province, has the potential of being the world's most sought after diving destination. Without doubt, a trip to this rainforest of marine life would dazzle diving enthusiasts, marine photographers, scientists, and the academic community, among so many other sectors of the global tourist community. Along with it is the lure of the economic opportunities for tourism professionals and other budding and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Juxtaposed with the prospects of becoming the global center for diving experience, however, is the obligation to ensure that its continued development to accommodate the surge in tourists and that the balance of its natural allure and the human footprints that accompany it remain sustainable. Boracay, for decades, the Philippines' most popular among its numerous beach destinations, was subject to a six-month closure and is now under restrictive visitor measures.
These are off-shoots of years of environmental disrespect by millions of tourists and wanton disregard by residents and entrepreneurs. Its saga is certainly one that we do not wish to see in our diving spots, most especially as we capitalize in the ecosystem of marine life.
Diving in the Philippines is a bright spot in Philippine tourism even as many consider diving an extremely elitist niche market. It provides an optimistic avenue through which we could share the beauty and wealth of Philippine marine and aquatic life with a world that is constantly battling the seemingly forlorn chronicles of a failing environment. Verde's story is much anticipated.

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