Five agencies have agreed to collaborate to promote biodiversity conservation in the municipality of Balabac, Palawan. These include the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Asian Development Bank Regional Technical Assistance 7813 (ADB-RETA), and the Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD).
BFAR and BMB are operating under the GIZ-funded Support to the Implementation of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Comprehensive Action Plan (SSME-CAP) Project while ADB-RETA 7813 is working through its Coastal and Marine Resources Management in the Coral Triangle – Southeast Asia Project. CESD, on the other hand, is implementing the Developing Sustainable Alternative Livelihoods in Coastal Fishing Communities in the Coral Triangle: Indonesia and Philippines Project that is sponsored by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) Grant 9160.
Coordinated efforts in Balabac, Palawan is essential to protect the municipality’s rich biological diversity as represented by the endemic Philippine Mouse Deer, locally known as ‘Pilandok’, estuarine crocodile, wild boar, ‘dugong’, green sea turtle and various fowl species like the Grey Imperial Pigeon, Blue Headed Racket tail, Philippine Cockatoo, and the Palawan Hornbill.
Despite the evidently high conservation value of Balabac, the municipality has no designated marine protected area (MPA) yet. In fact, the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 mentioned the Balabac Strait Corridor as one of the marine corridors in the country that requires coastal and marine resources management initiatives.
MPA establishment in Balabac, Palawan
The SSME-CAP Project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany through the GIZ, together with the aforementioned partner agencies, aims to establish MPAs in Balabac. The first MPA to be established will be in Barangay Ramos, which is inhabited by the Indigenous Group of Molbogs. The second will be in Barangay Salang while the third in Barangay 5 under the governance of Balabac Poblacion.
Preliminary scoping meetings with the local government units of these barangays were conducted. From these consultations, the Project identified the need to reinforce MPA establishment efforts with livelihood programs in order to offer sustainable alternative sources of income to the communities and discourage them from participating in sea turtle poaching, illegal fishing as well as tan barking. Consequently, the livelihood arm of the team through the CESD Project will take charge of this component for the residents of the target MPA sites.
Continuous meetings among the five agencies will be conducted in the following months to ensure streamlined activities in Balabac. The team also aims to expand cooperation among other environmental, social and private agencies that are working in Balabac in the interest of protecting the natural resources.
As this develops, the SSME Team together with partner agencies conducted consultation meetings and site assessment in the three island-barangays in Balabac on May 12-16, 2015. The team also had a courtesy call with Mayor Astami to provide him with more information about the SSME-CAP project. During community consultation meetings, the team provided lectures on sea turtle orientation and shared DENR’s initiatives in sea turtle conservation, sea turtle tagging protocols and the relevance of climate change in coastal communities. Inhabitants in both barangays were receptive to the establishment of an MPA in their areas and were very grateful to receive such new, yet critical insights on sea turtle conservation. #