Coral reefs in the Philippines are some of the world’s most vibrant—but in peril

Much of the archipelago’s undersea splendor is protected, but some areas are being stressed by climate change and harmed by destructive fishing practices.

Tourists swim with whale sharks near Oslob, on Cebu island, reflecting the tension between using and protecting the ocean. Guides toss shrimp to attract the sharks, and scientists worry this could change the animals’ behavior. But tourism can replace fishing in the economy, helping preserve coral reefs.


I am crossing a desert, but not one made of sand. I am swimming through a wasteland of rubble, the pulverized remains of a coral reef. Its barrenness startles me.

Elsewhere in the Philippines I have been dazzled by jewel boxes of coral splendor. This region of the Indo-Pacific, known as the Coral Triangle, is the planet’s richest trove of marine diversity.

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