Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Pilar Municipal Marine Park: A Model Of Environmental Governance

- Rosario M. Farrarons -

CEBU, Philippines -  Just recently, a virtually unknown marine park in Cebu caught national attention – and ran away with the coveted award in a search for the best marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Philippines. The Pilar Municipal Marine Park (PMMP), situated within the Camotes Sea, was given the highest honor in “Para el MAR”, the MPA Awards and Recognition Event mounted by the Marine Protected Area Support Network (MSN). 

The awarding ceremony was among the activities held at the 2nd Conference of Coastal Municipalities organized by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) in conjunction with a number of other environmental organizations, and as such, was witnessed by the over 600 mayors who attended the gathering at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel in June.

The PMMP, established in 2005, is the biggest component of a string of MPAs dotting the Camotes Sea. It covers 179.2 hectares of which 29.2 hectares is allocated for its marine sanctuary, an absolute no-take zone, almost triple the average size of marine sanctuaries in Central Visayas. The remaining 150 hectares of the park is designated as a marine reserve.

For a 5th-class municipality in an almost obscure island within the relatively tiny archipelago called the Camotes Islands, Pilar has shown sheer grit and determination in establishing a marine park of gargantuan proportions. 

Successful Marine Protected Area management a matter of political will

Pilar Mayor Jesus Fernandez, Jr. says, “It is a matter of political will (the matter of marine sanctuary management and enforcement) and thinking about food availability for our future grandchildren.” Fernandez advises his fellow local chief executives to give full support to their marine sanctuaries, especially on the legal and financial aspects of operations.

The PMMP was established with technical assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID through “The Philippine Environmental Governance Project” or “EcoGov”. EcoGov, which is being implemented with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), facilitated the initial education activities that brought heightened awareness of the need for the Pilar community to protect their coastal and marine resources. EcoGov continues to support the community as it takese steps to sustain its coastal management initiatives.

Pablito “Pabling” Pugata, a fisherman, was a reluctant participant to the first series of workshops that started Pilar navigating the high seas of illegal and destructive fishing practices that caused the degradation of their delicate resources. He was first invited to participate in the MPA Management Planning Writeshop in 2005. He says: “When I was first asked to attend the activity, I refused, but EcoGov personnel very patiently convinced me to attend explaining that my insights, being a fisherman, were essential to the formulation of the Pilar MPA Management Plan,” Pugata is also nicknamed “Governor” after his namesake, former Cebu Governor Pablo Garcia.

Management plan with multisectoral management board a key requirement

“Governor” and the 14 other Pilaranons who formulated the MPA Management Plan have not looked back since. They completed the 2005-2010 management plan which the municipal council adopted immediately. Soon afterwards, the multi-sectoral park management board was convened. 

The board is implementing the management plan. Their vision is the “successful conservation of our fishery and coastal resources through the effective management of a marine park, to achieve food security for the people of Pilar, today and the generations to come.” Volunteer fish wardens like “Governor” assist in law enforcement and monitoring and evaluation.

The MPA management plan is one among several other MPA management indicators. Achievement of all of these indicators place PMMP in Category 5, the highest tier in the MPA classification system. Category 5 is where “institutionalized” MPAs are classified. Aside from being enforced through a management plan, a MPA must fulfill other indices in order to qualify for Category 5. These include: effective LGU coordination with national and local agencies and with other LGUs on coastal management and MPA policies, presence of support facilities such as guardhouses or tourism and education centers, a sustained education program on the MPA, proper accounting of user fees, regular evaluation of ecological and socio-economic impacts and the institutionalization of an incentive system linked to the monitoring and evaluation of the performance of individuals and groups involved in MPA management.

All these, and the basic indicators required to qualify in lower MPA categories the PMMP had fulfilled. Completing the paperwork to make it to the finals of “Para el MAR” was a walk in the park. The proof of what was claimed on paper is PMMP’s clincher.









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