February 18, 2018

Asean officials learn about marine-protected areas

News Source: Business Mirror

Several officials from environment offices of some Southeast Asian countries visited marine-protected areas (MPAs) in Batangas province in the Philippines early this month in order to observe and learn from the experiences of key stakeholders in protected area management.

Ten officials from Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar visited selected MPAs in Batangas that are within the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor and the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape.

The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), with support from Germany’s Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW or German Development Bank) through the Small Grants Programme, led the activity.

The Experiential Learning Programme (ELP) participants had discussions with the officers and members of the Bantay Dagat (sea patrol) and fisherfolk organizations of the municipalities of Mataas na Kahoy, Mabini, Tingloy and Calatagan in Batangas, where they learned the key elements of a successful community-based management of protected areas (PA), as well as the challenges and issues.

The participants visited the Taal Lake Conservation Center, the Twin Rocks Marine Sanctuary in Mabini, Batalang Bato Marine Sanctuary in Tingloy and Ang Pulo Mangrove Conservation in Calatagan.

“This [ELP] is designed for us to learn from the local communities—how they value biodiversity and how they are utilizing these natural resources in their daily lives. Let us get our shoes dirty and visit the communities. The real biodiversity champions are out there in the field,” ACB Executive Director Roberto Oliva said.

Through interaction with key stakeholders, the Asean officials learned lessons on legal frameworks and governance systems as well as technical processes applied in PA establishment and management.

They were also informed about sustainable management of PAs through multi-stakeholder engagement and how the income from such sources are managed, and utilization of income from payment for ecosystem services and other financing mechanisms.

The Asean participants likewise learned about the most successful and applicable PA monitoring mechanism, and lessons and experiences in addressing issues on PA and in improving its management effectiveness.

“During the 18th meeting of the Asean Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment in May 2017 in Manila, Philippines, Cambodia expressed their need for a capacity building support for the establishment of their marine-protected area, which will be implemented by the newly established Department of Marine and Coastal Zone Conservation,” said Director Clarissa Arida of ACB Programme Development and Implementation Unit. “This ELP is the Centre’s response to Cambodia’s request for a study visit in marine PAs,” Arida added.

“We thank ACB for organizing this study tour. Our learnings from this activity will help us a lot to effectively manage our country’s own marine PAs,” said Than Chantha, director of the Department of Marine and Coastal Zone Conservation of Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment of Cambodia.

He added that Cambodia has begun to enhance its marine environment conservation following the establishment of the country’s first large-scale Marine Fisheries Management Area in 2016, a 405-square kilometer protected area around the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem.

“I’ve learned that community participation is important in park management. Strict enforcement and implementation of environmental policies and laws of both local and national governments are also vital to the sustainability of the park,” shared Aung San of Myanmar.

Covering 1.35 million hectares, the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor (VIPMC) is known as one of the world’s most productive ecosystems, earning its reputation as the “center of marine biodiveristy in the world.”

With about 1,736 overlapping marine species in a 10 kilometer by 10 kilometer area, the VIPMC is known to have the largest concentration of recorded marine life.

The Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) is identified as one of the Key Biodiversity Areas in the Philippines. It sustains Taal Lake, the country’s third largest lake, and the Taal Volcano, the world’s smallest active volcano.

The TVPL has a comprehensive 10-year (2010-2020) management plan emphasizing the need for community participation in protected area management.

The ELP of the ACB was conceptualized in 2010 as a response to the capacity-building needs of senior and mid-level staff of protected areas in the Asean region.

The learning approaches in ELP include the showcasing of different conservation practices that establish the effectiveness of protected areas through field visits or study tours, and interaction with key stakeholders in selected protected areas.

The ELP is a useful platform that enables the Asean member-states (AMS) to learn from and share experiences with counterparts in Asean on various issues related to biodiversity conservation and management.

Established in 2005, the ACB is an intergovernmental organization that facilitates cooperation and coordination among the AMS and with regional and international organizations on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of such natural treasures. It is the sole Asean center being hosted by the Philippines.