The concept of Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Philippines dates back in the latter part of the 90s to the early part of year 2000 as a strategy towards coastal resource management. There have been plenty of MPAs created all over the Philippines, but only very few exist at present times despite efforts for its sustainability both in the national and local levels.
In an attempt to gather yardsticks about MPA management I joined a group of coastal stakeholders in Sta. Cruz in their visit to the town of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur on December 7. Lanuza is best remembered by its exemplary performance of administering a huge MPA.
“It was just a matter of setting in place a comprehensive framework in order for the people on the ground to appreciate the initiative,” said Dante Limpot, former chairperson of the Peoples Organization (PO) that handled the inclusive command of the MPA before he was later absorbed as organic personnel of the Coastal Resource Management office. He stressed that the first few years of MPA management is crucial especially in the aspect of social preparation where local fisher folks mostly showed vehement resistance.
In terms of the level of social acceptability of the project, Limpot confidently revealed that as of the moment the community has really taken important role in the aspect of coastal law enforcement. “We seldom experience illegal fishing practices nowadays here. And the very good impact of this co-management effort between the LGU and the PO in MPA management is the significant increase of fish catches and the presence of noteworthy marine species in the entire Lanuza Bay.”
“It is imperative that there is livelihood option to be offered to the community if MPA management is to be considered seriously,” Limpot added, stating that the assistance provided by government offices like DOLE, DTI and LGU had helped a lot in their quest to succeed in managing a 111 hectares MPA. Presently their PO enjoys 6-digit total assets in a variety of business enterprises operated smoothly.
The efforts exerted by Lanuza to make its bay what it is now has never gone unnoticed. In fact, they are a consistent regional winner of the prestigious Para El Mar Awards, something that boosted the present multi-stakeholdership approach of the town in terms of coastal resource development and management.
The MPA management mechanism employed by Lanuza, which is basically community-based, is a clear manifestation that environmental conservation and protection should stem out through people empowerment. Other thwarted MPAs in the country, as far as I have seen, are mostly caused by inappropriate approaches introduced by local governments, or are fatalities of the traditional practices flavoured by the ever-detrimental political factor.