By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has marked 2018 as a banner year for the Philippines as a “protector” of the Coral Triangle—a region known as the center of marine biodiversity in the world.
As a member of a six-nation partnership, DENR said the Philippines has made significant headway in effectively managing its marine protected areas (MPAs) and fisheries, especially in the Coral Triangle region.
“The year 2018 was a good one for the Philippines in terms of our efforts and achievements as a member of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF),” said Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez, director of the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).
CTI-CFF is a multilateral partnership of six countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, and the Philippines—working together to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources in the region known as the “global center of marine biodiversity” by addressing crucial issues such as food security and climate change.
According to Rodriguez, the country has delivered on its commitment to create more MPAs with the enactment of Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act, earlier this year.
The E-NIPAS Law has brought to 43 the total number of nationally-managed MPAs and 1,816 locally managed MPAs, all covering 1.4 percent of the country’s total sea area. MPAs are areas in seas and oceans where human activity is regulated for conservation and protection of the natural resources within them.
“One of the milestones of the Philippines is the legislation of additional 10 (nationally managed) MPAs under the (E-NIPAS Act),” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also reported the full implementation of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program, which covered activities such as habitat assessment for the NIPAS MPAs, MPA networking technical assistance for local government units, support to 25 MPA networks and some 200 biodiversity-friendly enterprises, and inclusion of ocean acidification baseline study in select MPAs.
She added that coastal stability assessment, mapping, impact monitoring, resiliency studies and updating of coral reef baseline data were conducted in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise.
Other accomplishments of the country in MPA management include the establishment of a two million hectare MPA in northeast Palawan, approval of MPA management plan for Davao Gulf, and creation of five-province MPA and MPA network within the Verde Island Passage, which has been dubbed as the “center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity in the world.” The five provinces are Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Oriental Mindoro, and Occidental Mindoro.
Rodriguez noted that effective MPA management is one of the five targets under the country’s national plan of action (NPOA) for the CTI-CFF. “Among the NPOA goals, that of the MPA truly mirrors how much we have achieved in terms of implementation and regional cooperation,” Rodriguez pointed out.
Aside from MPA management, Rodriguez said the country was also successful in adopting the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM), another goal set by the Philippines in its NPOA.
She said the country had intensified its effort to combat illegal fishing nationwide to improve food security and livelihood. She said a Committee on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing was created through Executive Order No. 154 to strengthen law enforcement on the country’s coastal waters,
Of the 24 EAFM programs initiated, Rodriguez said six have been completed while 18 are on-going.
The BMB chief said the Philippines also made progress on its three other NPOA goals: establishment of seascapes, achieving climate change adaptation measures, and improved status of threatened species.