MANILA, Jan. 31 -- The Panaon Island in Southern Leyte must be declared a protected area due to overfishing and potential destruction of its inhabitants.

Due to its extensive coral reefs and various marine species, Panaon Island may also attract illegal traders.

It was identified as part of the 50 priority reefs in the world that will withstand the impacts of climate change.

"Reef-associated fish communities at the different reef areas around Panaon Island were found to have moderate richness and very high abundance," Senator Cynthia Villar said in a statement.

Villar, chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, has filed Senate Bill No. 1690 or the Panaon Island Protected Seascape Act of 2023.

The Panaon Island seas...