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In lieu of the Coral World Park and Nickelodeon petition to stop the development

of an underwater theme park, there are other ways to conserve our coasts. How
did this come about?
Several organizations and institutions have been practicing community-based coastal
resource management (CBCRM) in the Philippines for the past 40 years. One of its
strategies was to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) to allow fish and other food
source to recover and to conserve marine biodiversity. The first ever MPA was the Apo
Island Marine Reserve in the municipality of Dauin, Negros Oriental and was
established in the early 1970s. This was initiated with the Silliman University along with
other organizations and institutions to managed and protect the coral reefs of the island.
Over the years, several MPAs were established. There are now over 1,816 MPAs all
over the country, 33 of which managed by the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS). The
other 1,620 are managed between the local government units, peoples organizations
(POs) and non-government agencies.
In the early to mid-2000, the move was to establish MPA networks (MPANs). These
MPAs are connected ecologically by either becoming a sources of larvae (or seeds) or
sinks (where larvae or seeds settle and grow) or both. The rationale for this is to ensure
that there are back-ups in case one MPA is affected by typhoons or coral bleaching or
sedimentation, there will still be areas that can support its recovery and take up the role
of a source or sink.

What are marine protected areas?


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) define a marine
protected areas as ...Any area of intertidal or sub-tidal terrain, together with its
overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has
been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed
environment.

Philippine law, through Republic Act 10654, similarly defines MPAs as a defined area of
the sea established and set aside by law, administrative regulation, or any other
effective means in order to conserve and protect a part of or the entire enclosed
environment through the establishment of management guidelines. It is considered a
generic term that includes all declared areas governed by specific rules or guidelines in
order to protect and manage activities within the enclosed area.

What that includes and is not often indicated are the women and men that manage
these areas through voluntary means, often without support from the local government.
These are the POs who are actually the front liners in enforcing fishery and biodiversity
laws.
By establishing different zones within the MPA a part of it may be designated to allow
both local and international tourists to viewing of the area, swimming, snorkeling and/or
diving in limited areas. It need not be big permanent structures that are often called
eco-tourism resorts to attract investors. These eco-tourism areas often restrict the
access of local and reduce the fishing areas of women and men fishers and foraging
areas of indigenous peoples.
Several tools were developed to further improve the management of MPAs. These
include the management effectiveness, habitat restoration, capacity building and
conservation agreements with the MPA management body.
Different tools and strategies have been developed and improved for MPA management
in the past 40 years. In 1995, Haribon assessed the effectiveness of 595 MPAs in the
country. Only 10% were effectively managed and have proper documentation. These
included a local legislation (i.e. municipal ordinance) supporting its establishment, a
management plan, and a structure of the management body. The other 90% were just
paper parks. There have no designated management bodies, management plans,
there were only sand or silt inside the MPA, and no technical description of the MPA
boundaries, among others.
Tools were developed to assess whether the management body or the MPA are able to
address the objectives of its establishment. Habitat restoration was included to restore
degraded areas whether through active means (i.e. by planting corals and establishing
structures to allow corals to grow) or allowing the natural regeneration. To improve
governance, conservation agreements were entered between the local government and
POs to increase buy-in and improve funding for MPAs.

Haribon is working with the seven local governments of Lanuza Bay to improve
over 18 MPAs and establish a MPA network.
Through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) and the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the DENR,
Haribon has started one of the biggest and long-term MPA project for Lanuza Bay. The
Strengthening the Marine Protected Areas to Conserve the Marine Key Biodiversity
Areas of the Philippines or SMARTSeas Project in Lanuza Bay is a five-year project that
covers 147,238 hectares of waters for the seven LGUs. These are the municipalities of
Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen, Lanuza and Cortes, and Tandag City and their
LGU alliance the Lanuza Bay Development Alliance (LBDA).
Haribon has been strengthening the 17 MPAs since 2015 through the project and
assisted in establishing one MPA in Cortes. Haribon is currently building activities to
scale up the MPAs into an MPA network using science-based decision support tools to
further enhance MPA management within the bay. Haribon is also strengthening the
alliance or network of marine protected areas managers, the Nagkahiusang Mananagat
ug Mag-uuma nga Nag-amping sa Kinaiyahan Asosasyon or NAMANAKA. This is
composed of women and men chairs from over 22 POs in the bay that help in the
management of the MPAs. By integrating gender and development within the LGUs and
NAMANAKA, Haribon hopes to increase women participation in planning and decision-
making in MPA management.
With Haribons assistance the LGUs are also keen to integrate tourism in their MPA
plans. They want to ensure that each municipality and MPA showcase a different
experience so there will be no competing interests within the bay for tourism. The LGUs
and LBDA are willing to establish a bay-wide tourism package and showcase their
MPAs. Four MPAs have already been recognized as among the top ten best managed
MPA since 2007 National MPA Awards, the Para el Mar. The LBDA has also won
recognized as one of the top three best managed MPA networks from over 40 MPA
networks all over the country.
An intervention need not be a big-scale, large-investment scheme to showcase the
largest coral reef ecosystem conservation project. It should be consider the needs and
plans of the local government through consultations and involve different stakeholders
to achieve success. It may not be as high end as bringing it PhP 60 billion of investment
but it does the job of improving the well-being of the many, not just a few.