Blog entry week two

Over the last week I have taken some time to reflect on my first impressions of some of the methods used to set up Marine Protected Areas in the Philippines under the guidance of CCEF. One thing has stood out in stark contrast. In my previous experience and thoughout the majority of my studies on MPAs, the action to form them along with their regulation and policing were all carried out by either state or federal government agencies. This is thought to lead to strong MPA design and implementation through scientific, financial and legal backing and support. My home state has in excess of 25 established and proposed MPAs that have followed this model. State legislation in Australia covers all water out to three nautical miles offshore.

The planning process for developing the marine reserves in the state has recently changed. The planning for the latest marine reserve was carried out entirely within government, forgoing initial community and stakeholder consultation. This resulted in the publication of a proposed management plan that was released for public comment. This change in the planning procedure came about due to strong objections to several aspects of previous planning processes and delays in the completion of trials involving working with major stakeholders to consider alternative planning methods and processes. The management plans of any proposed MPA can be amended following the analysis of public comments and submissions. However local political issues have arisen in the past due to some stakeholders believing there is insufficient room and respect for their input.

Working on the island province of Siquijor I have been able to see first-hand the social focus that CCEF prioritises in its aim to restore and preserve the marine environment. This has resulted in a great drive shown by members of the local community and they are some of the most dedicated divers I have had the pleasure to work with. Every dive day I see without fail members of the local government units (LGUs) from the local Barangays, Municipalities and even Provincial offices. These include staff from the fisheries departments, agricultural organisations and the police force among others. As well as these members of government the local fisherman and business people and their families are always willing to support the work that we are carrying out and it is great to see so many men, women and children taking active roles. They undertake these efforts that support MPA establishment and rehabilitation in addition to their regular job. Furthermore not only do these locals work on the MPAs in their own Barangays or Municipalities but travel the island under the guidance of CCEF staff to help contribute to the Provincial wide agenda that all levels of the government are supporting. The locals are also pooling resources to share the burden of such activities as policing their MPAs.

It is great to see that the hard work the CCEF team have put in has encouraged and developed such a positive and significant community response . To look around the local people working with me and seeing that they are intimately involved in the project and aware of its worth and associated benefits to the future of the community has been, in the short time I have been with the CCEF, incredibly satisfying. In short I see directly that all who believe in the work carried out by the foundation are not only supporting great scientific research but also are directly benefiting the communities where the organization is active.