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Sibaltan, New Ibajay, Villa Paz, and Mabini


Conservation benefit: Establishment of a marine protected area and mangrove protected area, both for 25 years

Community benefit: Construction of guardhouses, purchase of conservation area patrol boats, equipment, buoys and signage, and purchase of cashew production equipment

Date Approved: 02.2008


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

The Philippines has some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs. These beautiful reefs feature far more species than do reefs in other parts of the world such as the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the Philippines is also home to some of the world’s most degraded reefs. Blast and cyanide fishing, overfishing, and pollution have damaged an estimated 85% of Philippine reefs.

Four villages on the island of Palawan have agreed to protect 1,317 acres of threatened coral reef for 25 years. In addition, they will protect 2,580 acres of mangrove forest. In return, Seacology, in cooperation with the El Nido Foundation, will provide funding for two guardhouses, patrol boats, marker buoys, and signs to enforce the new no-fishing reserve.

Putting a large area of the reef off-limits to fishing means the villagers will forgo income from fishing. Recognizing that, the Seacology grant will also pay for shelling and roasting machinery for the community’s fledgling cashew farming industry.

Project Updates

June 2011

A province-wide shortage of gravel and sand, caused by new restrictions on quarrying, delayed construction of the guardhouses. The villagers were able to continue construction by buying gravel and sand in small amounts when it became available. One guardhouse is now complete, and they hope to finish the second one by August. Cashew production is ongoing, and the villages are reportedly turning some profit not just from cashew sales but also from the hand-woven packaging of the nuts. The three boats are 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 apprehended a poacher from an adjacent municipality (Taytay) last March. A Seacology expedition visited the project in January 2011.

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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.

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June 2010

Ferdie Marcelo 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. Despite this, the conservation agreement 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.

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April 2010

Ferdie reports that consultations at the municipal level have been going on, in relation to the municipal marine zoning processes being undertaken, facilitated by ENF. The consultations also served as venue to have barangay officials 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 four barangays within the next month. The project should be completed by October 2010.

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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 facilitated by ENF are also ongoing. With the passage of the ordinances, the project is expected to move along after the holidays.

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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, and other supplies).

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January 2009

In June, 2008 Seacology Program Manager 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.

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