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The Philippine Embassy kicked off the week-long activities commemorating Philippine-British Friendship Day[1] with an inspiring talk on Philippine and British collaboration in protecting and preserving the marine environment in the island of Danjugan, Negros Occidental.

Entitled “Danjugan Island: Jewel of the Sulu Sea”, the talk focused on the ongoing preservation efforts being undertaken by Philippine and British volunteers on the globally important but fragile marine eco-region in Danjugan Island. Recognizing that the coral reefs in the Sulu Sea lie at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the global centre of marine biodiversity, a unique Philippine-British partnership was formed in 1994 with the primary aim of managing the conservation program based on Danjugan Island. With the help of World Land Trust and Coral Cay Conservation, two UK-based conservation organizations, the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PRRCFI) was able to purchase Danjugan Island for conservation.  Guest speaker Mr. Peter Raines (MBE), Director of International Operations of the Coral Restoration Foundation International pointed out that this pioneering Philippine-British partnership has led to the creation of the Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, which also undertakes environmental educational programmes for the youth. 

Continuing with the partnership, PRRCFI was able to expand its conservation programs to include the installation of 3 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern Negros Occidental. To date, there are approximately 7,000 British volunteers—students, marine scientists, environment and conservation experts—who visit Danjugan Island and work with PRRCFI President Mr. Gerry Ledesma and his team of Filipino volunteers in preserving the lush 43-hectare island. 

In his remarks, Ambassador Manalo lauded the long-standing friendship between the Philippines and the United Kingdom and commended the functional cooperative ventures between Philippine and British organizations in protecting the marine environment. He mentioned that these programmes foster a better understanding of the needs of the different sectors involved in the area, and may also be used as a model for resolving conflicting claims and interests in other vulnerable marine areas, particularly in the South China Sea/WPS. 

The talk was held at the Philippine Embassy in London on 20 October 2014. Guests included Dr. Owen Day, Director of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) of The INTASAVE Partnership & CARIBSAVE and Director of the Caribbean Fish Sanctuary Partnership programme, Dr. Andrew Phillips, Chairman of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation – Europe, and Mr. Edward J S Lilleystone, Director of GAZASIA.

[1] Philippine-British Friendship Day has been celebrated since the year 2000, by virtue of Proclamation No. 381, though our diplomatic relations with the UK go further back to 1946. The day was moved from December 7 to October 20 in 2008 to coincide with the inauguration of the new British Embassy in The Fort, and it has since been celebrated on this day.