EditorialDilemma at Apo Island

Dilemma at Apo Island

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The fresh ray of hope brought about by the entry of the Aquino administration is giving the municipality of Dauin the courage to ask President Noy to correct a disadvantageous situation.

Apo Island, that 74-hectare dot off Dauin’s coast, is known as the world’s first model for a community-based coastal resource management. Since it adopted the concept of a marine sanctuary in 1982, it was managed by a Marine Management Council, a separate organization from the barangay government.

The MMC, which had strong ties with the municipal government, had been successful in enforcing the marine reserve guidelines when the island was declared a protected landscape and seascape in 1994, and included in the National Integrated Protected Areas System of the Department of Environment & Natural Resources.

With this, the MMC gave way to the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) — a different group with a different master.

From a community-managed group, the PAMB put the island under a broader 15-man group chaired by the DENR Regional Executive Director and represented by the Provincial Environment & Natural Resources Officer, the Provincial Planning & Development Officer, the Mayor of Dauin, a representative of Silliman University, the barangay captain of Apo Island, and a few other representatives of NGOs and people’s organizations. There is also a Park Superintendent, a DENR employee, who is the chief operating officer of the protected area.

Because Apo Island is also a barangay, there are two heads in Apo with overlapping responsibilities. Also, the authority of the Municipal Mayor appears to be inexistent here, as he only sits as a member of the PAMB — not as the CEO of Dauin.

But perhaps the biggest issue the Dauinanons have over the PAMB is that all the money collected from the island, which runs into the millions per year, is siphoned to Manila, and only 75 percent of it comes back to the Island–not to the local government unit–in the form of projects.

It would now appear that placing the island under the PAMB is a step backward in terms of devolution and local autonomy, especially that the island was managed well by the MMC back then.

The island should be given back to the local government unit, if only to live up to its billing as the world’s first community-managed marine resource.

Sure, there may be safeguards to ensure that the environment would continue to be protected, but the bottomline is that the island should function as an integral part of Dauin, under the principle of local autonomy.

Apo Island should be run as a community– not as a corporation.

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