US Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development (USAid) Mission Director Gloria Steele visited Palawan to signify the US government’s commitment to support the province in achieving inclusive and resilient growth.
The first of Steele’s two-day trip to the island saw her visiting seaweed farmers in Brgy. Galoc to observe their progress on the Seaweed Upscaling Program. The program, supported by USAid through its Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (Compete) Project, was established by the Provincial Government of Palawan to help increase seaweed production in the five municipalities of Culion, Dumaran, El Nido, Agutaya, and Cagayancillo.
Apart from technical assistance in crafting the program, USAid is training farmers and local government officials on proper farming techniques and aquaculture practices to ensure the sustainability of the industry.
“The US government is pleased to work with Palawan to strengthen its seaweed industry. We believe this sector can generate more jobs and higher incomes for farmers,” Steele said. “We will continue to work with our local partners to ensure that the benefits reaped by this industry are enjoyed by all.”
Arnoldo Escultor, one of the seaweed farmer beneficiaries, expressed his gratitude for the training, saying that this will “help improve his livelihood and provide additional income to support his three children.”
Director Steele also visited a portion of the highway that was constructed through the Department of Tourism-Department of Public Works and Highways Tourism Road Infrastructure Project. The US government, through USAid’s Compete Project, facilitated the allocation of national funds for local tourism roads that will connect inland communities to new developments in the province.
On the second day, Steele met with Tagbanua Tribal Council and Coron local officials to discuss the development of social enterprises and other livelihood interventions to promote sustainable fisheries management.
Coron is one of the four municipalities, which has jurisdiction over the Calamianes Islands. Considered as one of the most biodiverse rich groups of islands in the Philippines, the islands contain 70 percent of coral and seagrass species recorded in the Philippines.
These natural sites are drawing tourists at increasing rates, providing a major source of income for people in the region and accelerating tourism as the main economic driver in Coron. Left unregulated however, the diversity of marine life in Calamianes is threatened by uncontrolled tourism development, beach quarrying of sand and pebbles, and illegal fishing.
The US government, through USAid, has been at the forefront of addressing these issues, working alongside municipal local governments to conserve and protect Calamianes by building their capacity to manage coastal fisheries, develop local policies and legislations and enforce coastal laws. USAid also works with local partners, including the Tagbanua Tribal Council, to promote an ecosystems approach to fisheries management.
“We intend to launch social enterprises that will help wean fishers away from over-dependence on marine resources, preventing destructive fishing methods that are employed out of desperation,” Steele said. “We hope to contribute to the provincial government’s goal of poverty alleviation, which will lessen human-induced threats to marine resources and advance stability and prosperity throughout the region.”