Leaders of a local fishing community, including community pastor Ronalyn Rivera, earned an open water diver certification in a scuba training geared towards the monitoring of marine resources and protected areas in Lanuza Bay, Surigao del Sur.
Rivera was selected by the local government of Cortes, along with seven others from the municipalities of Lanuza, Cantilan, and the DENR-CENRO of Surigao del Sur to be part of the open water diver training and certification that teaches underwater navigation using a compass, air conservation, safety and emergency procedures in using diving equipment, neutral buoyancy to prevent damage to marine life, and dive planning.
Organized by environmental group Haribon Foundation, the scuba diving training is facilitated by volunteer instructor and Haribon member Erick Villacorte. Since 2005, Villacorte has been training fisher leaders and local government staff in open water diver certification using self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba) in monitoring the status of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Lanuza Bay.
“I am excited to see what’s under—the richness of our marine protected areas,” Rivera eagerly told the organizers. She told them that it is her passion for conservation that drives her to help her fellow Cortesanons and fisher folks in the Lanuza Bay.
Rivera told Haribon that she wants others to understand the value of marine protected areas. In her native tongue, she explains that MPAs greatly benefit the fisherfolk and coastal communities in providing them with food and livelihood.
Marine protected areas
For the past 40 years, organizations have closely worked with local communities around the country to assist in the management of coastal resources using time-proven strategies such as the establishment of marine protected areas or MPAs, which protect fish and other marine resources from extraction.
Started in the 1970s, there are now more than 1,816 MPAs all over the country. Despite this number, MPAs and MPA networks (MPANs) are faced with challenges in status monitoring as there remains a lack of local expertise that can assist communities in identifying and monitoring marine resources in an MPA.
Through Haribon’s SMARTSeas Project in Lanuza Bay or the “Strengthening the marine protected areas to conserve the marine Key Biodiversity Areas of the Philippines” program, locals are equipped with monitoring skills and tools to help in the protection of their seas.
The Pambansang Alyansa ng Maliliit na Mangingisda na Nangangalaga ng Karagatan at Santuwaryo sa (Pamana Ka Sa) Pilipinas, a national alliance of community-based marine protected area managers, was established in 1999 to support the needs of volunteer fisher leaders and their organizations in managing MPAs.
Pamana advocates for the recognition of the rights of community-based organizations including the benefits of fish wardens and the effective implementation of fishery laws. To mark the Month of the Ocean in May, members of the Pamana Ka Sa Pilipinas convened to discuss ways to enhance MPA management in the country.
Currently, Haribon is strengthening the alliance of MPA managers in Lanuza Bay, the Nagkahiusang Mananagat ug Mag-uuma nga Nag-amping sa Kinaiyahan Asosasyon or Namanaka, composed of men and women leaders from more than 22 people’s organizations, including Ronalyn Rivera.
As chair of Namanaka’s livelihood committee, Pastor Rivera assists the Cortes local government in building the skills of community-based groups to take care of the seas and includes the message of conservation in her religious preaching.
“Our children will benefit from the hard work we do in watching over our seas,” said Rivera as she received her certification card from the Haribon Foundation. As an open water diver, she can now officially utilize the diving equipment of Cortes to observe and report about the status of MPA on their site.
By helping fisher organizations both at the local and national levels, Haribon hopes to strengthen MPA and MPAN management in the Philippines.
The Scuba training was made possible through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-BMB), Strengthening marine protected areas to conserve the marine Key Biodiversity Areas in the Philippines Project, otherwise known as the SMARTSeas in Lanuza Bay.
GREGORIO E. DELA ROSA, JR./HARIBON FOUNDATION