The government strengthens the protection of the marine ecosystem
A JOINT circular between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and two other state agencies is expected to strengthen the establishment of Marine Protected Area Networks (MPANs), restore damaged coastal ecosystems, and enrich coral reefs and marine habitats.
This policy mandates collaboration between the DENR, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Home Affairs and Local Government (DILG) to improve the coastal and marine environment through cooperation.
“The possible approval of the joint agreement [DA-DENR-DILG] policy guidance on the establishment and management of Marine Protected Area Networks (MPANs) will be valuable in biodiversity conservation efforts,” said Dr. Vincent Hilomen, SMARTSeas PH National Project Manager.
The JMC ensures that biodiversity conservation is a priority alongside economic development.
“There will be value for government policy that places conservation as equally important to development and progress. Many degraded coastal and marine habitats result from relentless pressure for development and progress with no regard for after-the-fact costs. higher for the environment”, says Hilomène.
A joint effort by DENR, DA and DILG will help the government overcome difficulties in setting up MPAs and MPANs amid usual opposition from coastal residents.
MPAN is a collection of MPAs or individual reserves operating cooperatively and synergistically under SMARTSeas.
“One of the biggest challenges we face in establishing MPANs is always community acceptance. There are several cases where communities resist setting aside part of their waters for protection because they think access to their fishing grounds is limited,” Hilomen said.
It is imperative that the government empowers its MPA/MPAN workforce to empower them to harness community cooperation in establishing protected areas and networks.
“A thorough discussion of the benefits of protection and consultation with the community from the start is essential. Community involvement in protection is essential,” added Holimen.
DENR’s SMARTSeas PH project, or Strengthening Marine Protected Areas to Conserve Marine Key Biodiversity Areas in the Philippines, is funded under a $28.53 million co-funding program between the government and the Environment Fund World (WEF). It also received a GEF grant of $8 million.
The SMARTSeas PH has so far trained at least 70 key DENR regional and field staff through online distance learning.
This is the first ever capacity building activity of its kind in the DENR. Increased skills included the identification and approaches to resolving threats to the marine environment.
The establishment of three MPANs has led to the development of nearly 90 MPA and MPAN management bodies that have demonstrated increased skills for management effectiveness.
SMARTSeas also developed an improved monitoring and evaluation system for MPAs and MPANs, which provided an important guide to tracking management progress across the country. Protection of coastal ecosystems within the MPA includes patrolling, monitoring habitats, conducting direct activities and repairing signage, other facilities, gear and equipment.