The Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans and Landscapes (SIBOL) project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) participated in the 2nd Palawan Marine Protected Area (MPA) Summit in Puerto Princesa City on September 19-20, 2022.
SIBOL Deputy Chief of Party Marlito Guidote led a discussion on law enforcement within MPAs, focusing on effective management structures, comprehensive threat assessments, compliance promotion and enforcement plans. SIBOL also conducted separate discussions on promoting livelihood and biodiversity-friendly enterprises in MPAs through community-managed savings and credit associations (CoMSCAs) that empower local communities to pool their funds to support each other’s financial needs and implement conservation activities.
USAID Deputy Mission Director (DMD) Rebekah Eubanks joined Palawan Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates in presenting the “Palawan MPAs Empowered through Awards and Recognition to Enrich Marine Life” or PEARL Awards to the province’s best MPAs.
The Office of the Provincial Agriculture of Palawan, which organized the two-day summit, awarded six MPAs with the PEARL Awards, with the Siete Pecados Marine Park in Coron, Calamian Islands receiving the highest distinction of being the best managed MPA. The marine park is supported by Fish Right–another USAID project in Palawan.
“In the last eight years, USAID has invested more than $157 million to help conserve and protect biodiversity in the Philippines, focusing on supporting evidence-based policymaking and implementation to achieve results that can be sustained locally: thus, improving lives, reducing poverty, strengthening governance, and helping people progress beyond assistance. Because of its status as the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, Palawan is a priority for a sizable portion of these investments,” Eubanks said.
On September 21, Eubanks visited the USAID-supported Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and met with Protected Area Superintendent Elizabeth Maclang, park rangers, and community members participating in community-managed savings and credit associations established by SIBOL. The park rangers shared details about their work that included going after illegal loggers and poachers within the national park. They also talked about challenges in their job, such as apprehending members within their own community. The community members, on the other hand, shared how USAID was able to help them through CoMSCAs–improving the management of their finances without them resorting to predatory lending companies. They added that they were able to start an environmental fund through their group savings that they intend to use on conservation activities within the national park.
The deputy mission director capped the USAID visit with a consultation with civil society organizations that, along with SIBOL, are working on conservation in Palawan. Representatives from the Environmental Legal Assistance Center; Palawan NGO Network Inc.; Katala Foundation; Center for Sustainability; Palawan Biodiversity Conservation Advocates, Inc.; and Philippine Geographic Society talked about their programs in the province, ranging from organizing environment-themed quiz bees among high school students to assisting indigenous communities in asserting their ancestral domain rights. The groups shared their challenges in funding, shoring up membership, and working with the local government.
USAID invited the organizations to submit grant proposals under the Investing in Sustainability and Partnerships for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE) project which supports civil society organizations in advocating for and participating in good natural resource governance. INSPIRE grants can support local climate mitigation and actions, biodiversity conservation, anti-wildlife trafficking and anti-poaching, and natural resource management. (SIBOL/ Jovan Cerda)