Umali vows to step up efforts to protect marine resources

Governor Alfonso Umali Jr. has vowed to step up efforts to protect Oriental Mindoro’s “fragile and diminishing” marine resources.

Photo by Rina Bernabe/Conservation International-Philippines

Umali said initiatives by nongovernment organizations, in partnership with the local government and line agencies, would be sustained as he pledged increased support for protected area managers and law enforcers.

“As the elected president of the Governor’s League of the Philippines, I cannot and will not fail our President Aquino and the governors in our league who pin their trust and confidence on me towards the construction and promotion of policies and programs which will set forth the conservation of our marine biodiversity and enhancement of its resources,” he said.

“By doing so, we are certain that our fragile and diminishing resources in coastal and marine areas of our territories will not be exacerbated and abused by irresponsible and illegal users of our marine life,” Umali added.

Oriental Mindoro currently has 20 marine protected areas (MPAs), including a mangrove forest reserve and a marine turtle sanctuary.

The Oriental Mindoro Marine Protected Area and Law Enforcement Network was established just over a year ago to maximize marine conservation efforts through increased coordination among the province’s coastal municipalities. Currently, the network is composed of 12 municipalities and one city.

In partnership with Conservation International-Philippines, the network works to establish new MPAs and rectify the boundaries of existing areas to improve management of these sites. The MPAs were identified based on resource assessments and surveys.

Other activities included the operational planning for Bantay Dagat members, participatory development of MPA management plans, communication campaigns and formulation of relevant laws, said CI-Philippines.

Romeo Trono, country executive director of CI-Philippines, said, “We are very pleased with the progress of our partnership so far with Oriental Mindoro, and are glad to know that the local government fully recognizes the importance of MPAs and the effective enforcement of fishery and conservation laws.”

“It is also equally important to point out another recent milestone—the first joint meeting of the MPA networks of Oriental Mindoro and Batangas, which happened last May,” Trono said, adding that the meeting was attended by members and officers of the two networks who discussed relevant concerns and areas for collaboration.

“It is a very promising development for the conservation of the Verde Island Passage,” he said.

Verde Island Passage covers more than 1.14 million hectares between the provinces of Batangas, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon. It is among the four priority marine biodiversity corridors of the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape, one of the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems. The Verde Passage Corridor contains more than half of the Philippines’ documented fish species as well as many globally threatened species.

Ely H. Vargas, municipal agriculturist of Naujan, said that the MPA and Law Enforcement Network are a very useful tool for easy facilitation and implementation of programs and projects regarding marine protected areas and fishery law enforcement.

“Through the network, linkaging and close coordination between and among MPA managers are strengthened, and vigilance and access to information among Bantay Dagat members are intensified,” he said.

CI-Philippines cited the successful rescue of a stranded dolphin in San Teodoro as a fruit of increased collaboration among stakeholders. The rescue was carried out through the combined efforts of the municipal Bantay Dagat and Fishery Management Office, with technical guidance from the Provincial Agriculture Office’s Fishery and Coastal Resource Management Division.

Aside from technical assistance in resource assessments and MPA establishment, CI-Philippines provides logistics support for enforcement, including patrol boats, searchlights, global positioning system (GPS) units, cameras, life vests, megaphones and binoculars.

Trono said these will be distributed to the network members to beef up the capacities of their respective Bantay Dagat groups.

Map of the Verde Island Passage. Image softlinked from Conservation International

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