PHILIPPINES, Mabini, New Ibajay, Sibaltan, Villa Paz Villages, El Nido, Palawan - February 2008
Construction of guardhouses, purchase of conservation area patrol boats, equipment, buoys and signage, and purchase of cashew production equipment as an alternative livelihood enterprise in exchange for the establishment of a 1,317-acre marine protected area and in support of a 2,580-acre mangrove protected area both for 25 years.
The Southeast Asian nation of the Philippines has some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs, featuring far more species than are found in other parts of the world such as the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the Philippines is also home to some of the world’s most damaged reefs with 85% of Philippine reefs negatively impacted by blast and cyanide fishing, overfishing and pollution. Four villages on the Philippine island of Palawan have agreed to protect 1,317 acres of threatened coral reef and an additional 2,580 acres of mangrove forest for a minimum duration of 25 years. In return the villagers have asked Seacology, in cooperation with the El Nido Foundation (ENF), to provide funding for two guardhouses, patrol boats, marker buoys and signs to enforce the new no-fishing reserve. As the villagers will be foregoing needed fishing income they have also requested funding for shelling and roasting machinery for their fledgling cashew farming industry. (This is Seacology's 50 Simple Things project.)
UPDATE January 2009 - In June, 2008 Karen Peterson visited the site with field representative Ferdie Marcelo. Abundant seagrass is evident in the MPA. As of October 2008 all four communities had submitted village conservation agreements to the Municipal Council. The Council’s environment committee was scheduled to draft a municipal ordinance reflecting these agreements by end of 2008. Once the ordinances are finalized, the implementation and construction component of the project will begin.
UPDATE June 2009 - As of April 2009, all four barangays have endorsed their marine protected areas in the form of resolutions from the Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (BFARMC) and from the Barangay Council in each of the four barangays. Legal establishment of the sites will be completed when the legislative body of El Nido passes the Municipal Ordinance, a draft of which is currently being deliberated. Meanwhile, enforcement efforts are being strengthened in the vicinity of the sites, in partnership with the multi-stakeholder enforcement team composed of municipal government-hired personnel and local task force teams from each barangay. ENF extends partial support to these teams in the form of enforcement supplies (fuel, oil, other supplies).
UPDATE December 2009 - As of December 2009 field representative Ferdie Marcelo reports that legal establishment of the sites has been completed with the passing of four municipal ordinances covering the mangrove areas within each barangay. Enforcement efforts are still being strengthened in the vicinity of the sites,and management planning activities are facilitated by ENF and are participatory in nature, and are also ongoing. With the passage of the ordinances, the project is expected to move along after the holidays.
UPDATE April 2010 - As of April 2010 Ferdie reports that consultations at the Municipal level have been going on, in relation to the municipal marine zonation processes being undertaken, facilitated by ENF. The consultations also served as venue to have the barangay officials identify and agree on the ideal sites for the two guardhouses to be funded. The lengthy preparation involved is important as there has to be wider community acceptance of the relatively big no-take zone. The covenant is scheduled for discussion and signing by the leaders of the 4 barangays within the next month. The project should be completed by October, 2010.
UPDATE June 2010 - As of June 2010 Ferdie reports that since mid-last year, the El Nido community has been trying to fend off an attempt to dredge a portion of their bay to build a bigger port for an inter-island ferry system. This has caused an unwanted distraction from the project, resulting in many delays in the time table. Despite this the covenant has been signed, and the project can now proceed. The good news is the dredging issue has died down because it became a hot issue during the recent national and local elections.
UPDATE January 2011 - The cashew processing machines had been procured and the villagers have been trained to use them. Personnel from the Department of Science and Technology conducted the training. The finished products are now being sold in El Nido town, with the help of our partner, the El Nido Foundation. Moreover, their roasted cashews have found their way into the boutiques of El Nido's prime island resorts (Miniloc and Lagen) where brisk sales are likewise being reported. The boats that will be used to patrol the MPA have already been built and will be launched sometime this month. A Seacology expedition visited this project in January 2011.
UPDATE June 2011 - A province-wide shortage of gravel and sand since December 2010 had caused delays in the construction of the guardhouses, one of which is now complete. New restrictions in quarrying areas of the province created a scarcity for these construction materials. The villagers were able to continue construction, if little by little, by buying gravel and sand in small amounts when some becomes available. They hope to finally finish of the second guard house by August. Cashew production is still ongoing, and the villages are reportedly turning some profit not just from cashew sales but also from the hand-woven packaging of the cashews some households are engaged in. The three boats are already being used to patrol the MPA. Buoys and signage are also already in place. The local parish priest, Fr. Ed Parino, is spearheading the patrolling of the MPAs, and they have so far apprehended a poacher from an adjacent municipality (Municipality of Taytay) last March. A Seacology expedition visited the project in January 2011.