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Sustained financing of MPAs

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), also referred to as Marine Reserves and Marine Sanctuaries, are widely recognized as effective tools for fishery management and biodiversity conservation and also considered as viable options for sustainable management in developing countries. There are many published papers, many of which have been written by scientists at Silliman University, on the positive impacts of MPAs on the marine biodiversity, the fishery, and the socioeconomic life of fisher communities in the Philippines.

Most of the more than 1,000 MPAs in the Philippines reported thus far are small (few to 10s of hectares) and established and co-managed by LGUs, NGOs, and POs, often assisted technically by academe, under the legal framework of the Local Government Code, the Fishery Code and the local ordinances. They are generally funded from local sources, notably the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of LGUs, although a few receive assistance from other internal funding sources and foreign sources.

Only very few (some half a dozen) MPAs are large (100s of km2 in area). These large MPAs have been established and managed by the Protected Areas Management Boards under the chairmanship of the Regional Directors of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The legal framework is the NIPAS Act. All of these MPAs are covered by Presidential Proclamations, but only few have specific laws enacted by the Philippine Congress that mandate steady and regular budgetary allotments from the annual Philippine National Appropriations Act.

In general, the financial support of government for MPAs, except for a couple of marine reserves, is not adequate to ensure efficient management and protection of these MPAs over the long term, hence the need plan for sustainable funding. The exceptions derive their financial support from user fees and payments for ecosystem or environmental services. There are several examples from among the Philippine MPAs that illustrate the nature of financial support that might be considered sustainable, given the present conditions obtaining in the country.

From published information and from personal knowledge and experience, some half a dozen recommendations for long term sustainable funding of Philippine MPAs have been given to DENR, including payments of environmental services, user fees, regular appropriations from the IRA of local government units, endowment funds from charitable institutions specializing in environmental conservation, etc. However, these recommendations are premised on the condition that these MPAs are managed well in such ways that marine biodiversity and fishery resources are conserved and the general environment remains healthy. The reasoning is that fund donors are interested only in marine protected areas that are well managed and protected. In other words, such protected areas are judged successful.

The current situation among community-based marine reserves in the Visayas, where only about a third of the more than 500 reserves has been judged successful, is not one in which donors can be persuaded to readily give their financial support.

So I hope that MPA managers and policy makes can be challenged to manage their marine reserves well to ensure long term financial support.

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