Location, size, short history of the Marine Park
A series of coral reefs, spreading over an area of 34 square kilometres within the waters of Occidental Mindoro province in the Philippines, create the magnificent Apo Reef, the second largest contiguous coral reef system in the world and largest within the country. The reef and the surrounding crystal clear waters are administered as a National Park under the Apo Reef Natural Park project.
The Grand Apo Reef, also considered as Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) lies 15 miles west of Sablayan in the Occidental Mindoro province. The Reef spans a total of 27,469 hectares within the Sulu Sea (this also includes 11,677 hectare protective buffer zone.
Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) or the Grand Apo Reef comprises of several islands, including the Apo Island, which is the biggest island, Apo Menor and Cayos del Bajo. Tinangkapaan Island is the smallest isle of the ARNP.
The Apo Reef is located at the northern tip of the Coral Triangle, a 5.7 million square-kilometre region that touches the sea of 6 countries, including Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands. Abundant in colourful marine life, the Coral Triangle is the home of 2228 types of reef fish and houses about 605 reef building corals. This is the primary reason why renowned coral expert Dr. Charlie Veron hails it as ‘the centre of Earth’s marine diversity.’
The effects of years overfishing, lethal chemical pollution, destructive coral mining, sedimentation and climatic change had been detrimental, resulting in acidification, coral bleaching and ocean warming. Now steps have been taken to protect the Apo Reef. In 1980 the then Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos declared Apo Reef a “Marine Park”. This was followed up 3 years later by the local government of Sablayan that declared the Apo Reef a special “Tourism Zone and Marine Reserve”. In 1996 President Fidel Ramos declared Apo Reef a protected Natural Park. In 2006, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources listed the reef for the consideration of UNESCO World Heritage sites.