The Kasama ng Kalikasan team of Tanggol Kalikasan uncovered pressing environmental challenges faced by the Polillo Group of Islands (POGI) in a survey conducted from October 12 to 16, 2023. Polillo Group of Islands is composed of 27 islands located in the province of Quezon which has one of the longest coastal areas in the Philippines. POGI is 300 kilometers away from Benham Rise (Philippine Rise), a designated “protected food supply exclusive zone” where mining and oil exploration are strictly prohibited.

Due to extensive logging operations in the 1960s to 80s, there are only 200 hectares of old growth lowland rainforest left in the area. Also within the area is the Panukulan Watershed Reserve which is an intact secondary forest. There are also some remnants of forest patches where the vulnerable butaan(gray monitor lizards), kalangay (Philippine cockatoo), Tarictic hornbill, bayakan (giant golden-crowned flying fox), wild boar (Philippine warty pig) and the usa (Philippine deer) are found, however there is already visible balding of the forest. POGI is also a part of the South Luzon Faunal Region, a worldwide recognized biodiversity hotspots and one of the highest priority regions for conservation concern. This is due to the large number of threatened species of flora and fauna that are endemic to the area. The lack of care and protection in the area caused a high threat of depletion or loss in the remaining forests in island of Polillo and Philippines in general.

One of the highlighted challenges faced by farmers in the area are the fluctuating prices of copras, fuel, and crude oil. As a result, many farmers have been forced to abandon coconut farming. On a positive note, these abandoned coconut groves have been converted into secondary forests. Unfortunately, the lack of viable farming livelihood has led the local population to engage in illegal fishing practices such as dynamite or blast fishing, compressor for cyanide fishing, and harvesting of giant clams, all of which are prohibited by law.

Tanggol Kalikasan believes that raising awareness among the local community about the importance of preserving biodiversity and adopting sustainable practices can contribute to the long-term conservation of the area. By working together, the community can strive to mitigate the negative impacts and promote the restoration of a healthy and thriving ecosystem of the remaining paradise of the Polillo Islands.