CONSERVATION group Haribon Foundation has been working with communities around Lanuza Bay, Surigao del Sur to sustain marine management after development programs end, the group reported this week.
The Philippines ranks third in the world for marine biodiversity, Haribon said. With more than a hundred marine key biodiversity areas, the country’s waters host globally significant species threatened with extinction.
As a response, site scale conservation of marine protected areas has been inaugurated in the past years through funded projects. Despite this, assisted communities are commonly faced with the dilemma of finding ways to sustain momentum whenever a project closes – a typical scenario in development work.
What will happen to the marine protected areas and its management bodies when a project ends? How will they continue to sustain programs in biodiversity conservation and income generation? This concern unsettled Pepe Montañez of the Adlay Fisherfolk Multi-Purpose Cooperation (AFMPC) of the municipality of Carrascal in Surigao del Sur. He, along with members of other organizations and local government units, have been clamoring for sustainable solutions plaguing the marine protected areas (MPAs) and marine protected area networks (MPAN) in the last twenty years.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a marine protected area or MPA is a “clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed…to achieve long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”
A multifaceted approach for sustainability
Through a multifaceted perspective, the Strengthening the Marine Protected Areas to Protect the Marine Key Biodiversity Areas in the Philippines (SMARTSeas) Project in Lanuza Bay, Surigao del Sur addresses issues of program sustainability.
With the support of the Global Environment Facility, United Nations Development Programme, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau, Haribon and its local partner, the Lanuza Bay Development Alliance, will assist the local government units and the management bodies to strengthen MPA and MPA network in Lanuza Bay for five years.
There are more than 16 MPAs in Lanuza Bay. It is home to one of the first MPAs established in the Caraga region in 1996 – the Tigao Fish Sanctuary in Barangay Tigao in the municipality of Cortes. This was two years before the enactment of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, otherwise known as Republic Act 8550.
Each of the 16 MPAs has a management body mainly composed of fishers and other sectors, with the support of the barangay and municipal/city government.
Through SMARTSeas, these 16 MPAs have upgraded their strategic management plans. To sustain current initiatives, they have identified funded and unfunded activities and created a business plan that were presented to the Caraga regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the local governments of Lanuza Bay.
This new direction ensures that in the next three years, activities that gain no support from the local government still push through.
In 2016, national government offices signified support for the all of 2017, ranging from provision of marker buoys to mark MPA boundaries, training on tourism management planning, bird watching and food services for MPAs with tourism potential, and training on coral reef monitoring.
The DOT suggested an integrated tourism plan that will link each municipality in Lanuza Bay to different tourism opportunities, and prevent competition and overlapping of products and services (e.g. snorkeling and diving, river cruising, bird watching).
Manong Pepe, the MPA management bodies and local governments continue to work together to achieve identified success indicators that will realize the goal of sustaining conservation efforts in coastal resources and marine biodiversity.
GREGORIO E. DE LA ROSA, JR./HARIBON FOUNDATION