As a coal mining and coal-fired power plant operator, Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) has always been the target of criticisms by environmental groups.
Often overlooked, however, are the company’s efforts to transform Semirara Island into a cradle of giant clams and other high-valued commercial organisms like abalone, spiny lobsters and mud crabs.
With the establishment of SMPC’s Semirara Marine Hatchery Laboratory (SMHL) in 2010, the company aims to host the most advanced resource and development center to promote the conservation, sustainability and environmental enhancement by improving marine biodiversity, fishery resources and habitats.
SMP focuses on the spawning of giant clams which provide shelter to seaweeds, sea sponges and other marine organisms. Giant clams help clean pollutants and produce food for other marine species.
The giant clams which are also popular for their local name taklobo, likewise serve as an indicator of good water quality in the area despite ongoing coal mining operations. This is because these creatures cannot thrive in a polluted environment.
At present, the lab is spawning at least eight species of giant clams including True Giant Clam; Smooth Giant Clam; Fluted Giant Clam; Boring Giant Clam; Noah’s Giant; Small Giant Clam; Strawberry Giant Clam; and Porcelain Giant Clam.
From the initiative of reseeding 150 giant clams on the island’s coastline in 2006, SMPC expanded the hatchery and has survived 163,267 giant clams to date, of which 80,146 have been reseeded.
Meanwhile, 50 giant clams from the hatchery were transferred and spawned along the shoreline of SMPC’s power operations in Calaca town in Batangas province.
In 2015, a team of marine biologists from the Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management led by National Scientist Angel Alcala, conducted a survey of the whole coastal area of Semirara Island. The results of the study showed contrary to expectations for mining areas, the reefs surveyed had extensive coverage of live hard coral cover and relatively high fish biomass and density.
Likewise, SMPC also formed linkages with other eminent figures in marine biology to further improve SMHL’s efficiency including two other National Scientists Gavino Trono and the late Edgardo Gomez.