Busuanga Island, in Palawan Province, is surrounded by a wealth of coastal ecosystems: mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. Because these habitats support both fishing and tourism, they are crucial to the rural economy.
The 969-acre Sagrada-Bogtong-Concepcion Marine Protected Area contains coral reefs (with a live coral cover of 60 to 75%), seagrass beds, and many species of mangroves. The entire area is a no-take zone. In addition to common reef fishes such as wrasses, snappers, and groupers, there are reports of black-tip sharks, green and hawksbill turtles, and dolphins. Dugongs have been sighted in the seagrass.
Barangay Bogtong, population 1,076, is a village on Busuanga Island. It has 237 acres of mangroves, which are part of the MPA but have been cut for charcoal, fuel, and poles. Worse, some areas were cleared for fishponds. Some previously dense mangrove forests are now sparsely vegetated second-growth forests.
With the enthusiastic support of the village, about 20 residents created a conservation organization called 3BG. In 2016, the group was behind the establishment of a protected forest area. They also operate a mangrove nursery and have rehabilitated a 50-acre mangrove area. The group works with an NGO called Community Centered Conservation or C3 Philippines, which partners with communities to conserve coastal and marine habitats. Its members are deputized enforcers of the MPA rules, and patrol it by boat daily.
The group has committed to expanding its efforts for 15 years. It is building a 50-meter boardwalk through the mangroves, and with a Seacology grant, will add another 200 meters with viewing and resting areas. This will:
- Allow better monitoring of the mangroves.
- Encourage ecotourism, as birders, kayakers, and hikers gather on the boardwalk. Local people will sell food and local handicrafts, which will decrease their reliance on fishing as a livelihood. The mere presence of more tourists will discourage poachers.
- Provide a locale for environmental education for local children.
- Help instill in residents a sense of pride in their unique natural resources—and a sense of control over their fate.