CI Marine Sites Among Best Protected Areas in the Philippines

In 2005, CI-Philippines began working in the Verde Island Passage (VIP), a globally significant marine biodiversity corridor that’s home to whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), giant clams (Tridacna gigas) and marine mammals. It is also a major sea lane, with commercial and fishing vessels regularly passing through to reach major international ports.

Coral reef in the Philippines' Verde Island Passage. (Photo: © CI/ photo by Sterling Zumbrunn)

In this corridor, we initiated the process that led to the emergence and growth of the marine protected areas (MPA) network. So it was a proud day for us on CI’s Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape team when two marine protected areas in the Verde Island Passage project site — Twin Rocks Marine Sanctuary and Agsalin Fish Sanctuary — were recently recognized as among the best managed MPAs in the Philippines.

Starting at just over 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) in 2005, the MPA network now covers more than 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of critical habitats. Being among the older MPAs in the area and thus more able to demonstrate conservation benefits, Twin Rocks and Agsalin garnered high scores in the Para El Mar (For the Sea) MPA competition and were chosen as among the 10 finalists from a field of more than 100 nominees from across the country.

As a highly popular dive site, Twin Rocks helps bring in considerable income to the local community and local government. In addition, private sector support has also been instrumental in improving law enforcement efforts in the waters of Balayan Bay where Twin Rocks is located, further deterring illegal fishing activities.

Since the establishment of Agsalin Fish Sanctuary, scientists and locals have observed recovery of corals and maintenance of live coral cover within the protected area. Local fishers in areas adjacent to the MPA or within its buffer zone have also observed improvements in their fish catch, demonstrating the so-called “spill-over effect” of increased protection.

The local managers of the VIP MPA network are definitely working hard to improve marine resource management in their municipalities, and we are working right along with them. Plans for future work include improving the management effectiveness of existing MPAs, developing local climate change adaptation plans, promoting mangrove reforestation and establishing more mangrove conservation areas, and improving law enforcement.

The national MPA competition is held every two years. One of our VIP partners in the Batangas provincial government, Lorie Sollestre, told us, “We are working very hard to protect and effectively manage our MPAs, and I’m optimistic that when the next Para El Mar comes along, we will even have more MPAs qualifying to join.”

Certainly, things are looking up.

Corina Bernabe is the communications coordinator for CI-Philippines. Learn more about this story here.



  2. Richard Ewen says

    We ie Biri Resort& Dive Center have now formed the Biri Initiative
    We have had contact from the appropriate government bodies and have be given a go ahead to proceed with our challenge to save the corals etc.
    In the area are two Marine Sanctuaries which are fairly well maintained but could do with assistance we have plotted out a 50 square meter area took photos we are now building a marine platform to monitor the area our purpose is
    1:Deployment of 10 artificial reef domes, ( Pilot Phase One).
    2: Collect plankton using special netting, and build holding tanks.
    3: Segregate the fingerlings over a three month period and return fingerlings to the sea.
    4: Pay the compressor fishermen not to fish, but instead police the area.
    5: Encourage collages to interact with our projects along with the local people.
    6: Try to duplicate what has been successful in Analio, Apo Island and attempt to make the island more of a tourist attraction.

    We plan for next year via dive resorts to invite divers to the area where there will be no dive fees and a discounted room rate but the catch is indeed a catch?
    Divers need to assist our dive crew to remove the Crown of Thorns from various areas surrounding Biri Island and help with the deployment of the artificial domes.

    Richard Ewen
    Biri Resort & Dive Center
    Biri Island
    Northern Samar

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