CALAPAN CITY - The Province of Oriental Mindoro continues to step up its marine conservation efforts by increasing the support for its marine protected area (MPA) managers and law enforcers.
The Oriental Mindoro Marine Protected Area and Law Enforcement Network was formally established just over a year ago with the aim of maximizing marine conservation efforts through increased coordination among the province’s coastal municipalities. The network initially started out with seven municipalities and one city, with five other municipalities eventually joining in.
With NGO partner Conservation International-Philippines, the network has been working to establish new MPAs and rectify the boundaries of existing areas to improve management of these sites. The MPAs were established based on resource assessments and surveys, the results of which were presented to community members in order to gain public support. Other activities included the operational planning for Bantay Dagat members, participatory development of MPA management plans, communication campaigns and formulation of relevant laws.
Oriental Mindoro currently has 20 marine protected areas, including a mangrove forest reserve and a marine turtle reserve.
Mr. Ely H. Vargas, Municipal Agriculturist of Naujan, said that the MPA and Law Enforcement Network is a very useful tool for easy facilitation and implementation of programs and projects regarding marine protected areas and fishery law enforcement.
“Through the Network, linkaging and close coordination between and among MPA managers is strengthened, and vigilance and access to information among Bantay Dagat members is intensified,” he said.
A recent example of the fruits of such increased collaboration is the rescue of a stranded dolphin in San Teodoro, which was successfully carried out through the combined efforts of the municipal Bantay Dagat and Fishery Management Office, with technical guidance from the Provincial Agriculture Office’s Fishery and Coastal Resource Management Division.
According to Gov. Alfonso Umali, the province is committed to sustain these initiatives. “As the newly-elected President of the Governor’s League of the Philippines, I cannot and will not fail our President Aquino and the Governors in our League who pin their trust and confidence on me towards the construction and promotion of policies and programs which will set forth the conservation of our marine biodiversity and enhancement of its resources.”
“By doing so, we are certain that our fragile and diminishing resources in coastal and marine areas of our territories will not be exacerbated and abused by irresponsible and illegal users of our marine life,” he added.
Romeo Trono, Country Executive Director of Conservation International-Philippines, said, “We are very pleased with the progress of our partnership so far with Oriental Mindoro, and are glad to know that the local government fully recognize the importance of MPAs and the effective enforcement of fishery and conservation laws.”
“It is also equally important to point out another recent milestone – the first joint meeting of the MPA networks of Oriental Mindoro and Batangas, which happened last May,” Mr. Trono added. The meeting was attended by members and officers of the two networks who discussed relevant concerns and areas for collaboration. “It is a very promising development for the conservation of the Verde Island Passage,” he said.
Verde Island Passage occupies more than 1.14 million hectares between the provinces of Batangas, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon. It is among the four priority marine biodiversity corridors of the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape, one of the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems. The Verde Passage Corridor contains more than half of the Philippines’ documented fish species as well as many globally threatened species.
Aside from technical assistance in resource assessments and MPA establishment, Conservation International also provided logistics support for enforcement, including patrol boats, searchlights, global positioning system (GPS) units, cameras, life vests, megaphones and binoculars. These will be distributed to the network members to beef up the capacities of their respective Bantay Dagat groups.