Zamboanga, Batangas sanctuaries hailed best PH marine reserves

MANILA, Philippines – A marine sanctuary in an island in Zamboanga Sibugay and a network of marine reserves in Batangas were declared the best-managed marine conservation sites in the Philippines.

The Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, won first place in the Most Outstanding Marine Protected Area (MPA) category in the 5th Marine Protected Area Awards and Recognition or Para El MAR.

The Batangas MPA and Bantay Dagat Network topped the Most Outstanding MPA Network category which recognizes multiple MPAs handled by multiple local government units working together.

Recognizing well-managed marine sanctuaries is a way of highlighting best practices and rewarding communities that work hard to protect their marine ecosystems.

Best out of 200

Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary bested 11 other finalists. These 11 finalists were picked from over 200 MPAs that participated in the competition.

The MPAs were judged based on how well they are managed, how the conservation has made an impact on the ecological and biophysical status of the sanctuary, and how the MPA management has created social and economic benefits for nearby communities.

BEST MARINE RESERVE. This is Buluan Island in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, home to the best-managed marine protected area in the country. Photo courtesy of MSN

BEST MARINE RESERVE. This is Buluan Island in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, home to the best-managed marine protected area in the country.

Photo courtesy of MSN

Aside from the top winners, there were second- and third-placers for each category.

The full list of winners for the MPA category:

The full list of winners for the MPA Network category:

All the winners were awarded a trophy, cash prize, and snorkeling gear sets during an awarding ceremony in General Santos City on October 24.

Elements of a top marine reserve

What makes a well-managed marine reserve?

The finalists had several things in common, said multi-awarded marine biologist Porfirio "Perry" Aliño, coordinator of the Marine Protected Areas Support Network (MSN), which organizes the competition.

First, they were "diligent in keeping records such as financial statements, management plans, meeting minutes, and photos," said Aliño.

Documentation served as the bases for judges to evaluate how the MPAs were being managed.

LIVE CORALS. The colorful coral reef in Batangas is a far cry from the white dead corals found in many marine ecosystems in the country. Photo courtesy of MSN

LIVE CORALS. The colorful coral reef in Batangas is a far cry from the white dead corals found in many marine ecosystems in the country.

Photo courtesy of MSN

Second, judges observed that in most finalist MPAs, the state of the marine ecosystems were actually improving.

In Buluan Island, for example, live hard coral cover increased by 12.4% in two years, or from 70.8% in 2012 to 83.2% in 2014.

"This is particularly interesting to us because this is an important element in showing our hypothesis that marine protected areas, when managed correctly, really does improve the overall quality of the protected environment," said Aliño.

Third, these top MPAs were able to strengthen their management system by applying for technical or financial support from other agencies, whether it be bantay dagat coordinating with maritime police or asking for aid from non-governmental organizations.

The 5th Marine Protected Area Awards and Recognition was co-organized with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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