DAVAO CITY , Philippines — To abate the threats on marine and coastal habitat degradation of Davao Gulf, a panel of experts in marine ecosystem is mulling to create a network of Marine Protected Areas in Davao region that could play a vital role in , sustaining the efforts on protection and conservation of the coastal and marine environment across the country.
Called as “One Davao Gulf Network,” this network of local MPAs is seen to engage with the private sector and local government units in the region to continue good practices in coastal and marine management, and fisheries.
Davao Gulf is one of the top marine key biodiversity areas in the country, however, existing threats have yet to be addressed to make the marine ecosystem viable, according to Ricky Biyo, project manager of World Wide Fund (WWF) said during the People and the Sea: Partners Forum here on Tuesday.
WWF Philippines is the project implementor of the SMARTSeas PH, a project initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that works with government agencies and other groups to reduce and arrest reduce and arrest the rapid degradation of marine and coastal habitats
“Davao Gulf was part of the project because it was identified as one of the top 10 fish-producing areas in the country,” he said.
Biyo said the WWF is working closely with the Davao Integrated Development Program to set-up the marine protected areas network for the site.
“For now, we are focusing only to 19 MPAs belonging to five cities and five municipalities in the Davao Gulf but through the DIDP, we are trying to create a One Davao Gulf Network that would include all cities and municipalities,” Biyo said.
WWF is eyeing a total of 23 cities and municipalities belonging to the five provinces to be involved in the One Davao Gulf Network.
“The establishment of the One Davao Gulf Network aims also to include more marine key biodiversity areas for conservation and sustainable coastal resource management,” he said, adding that his group with the guidance of SMARTSeas PH is planning to create a management team to effectively manage the marine protected areas in Davao Gulf.
Such network would enable transformative governance network to what Biyo called an “ecological network that would support conservation, protection and management initiatives of marine ecosystem.”
In Davao, there were 19 Marine Protected Areas previously established prior to the implementation of the SMARTSeas PH, a five-year project of the United Nations Development Programme in the Philippines with a budget of USD 8 million.
The project started in the Philippines in 2014 and about to end in 2019. It aims to accelerate the establishment of marine protected areas and MPA networks to include more marine key biodiversity areas across the country.
“These MPAs were previously established by the local government units and with the help of some NGOs. Now, when the project started, the theme that drove the need to create the One Davao Gulf Network is connectivity,” Dr. Vincent Hilomen, project manager of SMARTSeas PH said.
For her part, Crisant Marlene Rodriguez, speaking for DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, also recognized the establishment of One Davao Gulf Network to implement a more effective integrated coastal management.
“We should not forget that development can always be sustainable and does not mean compromising our environment. We can be a developed nation only when we learn to sustainably manage our natural resources,” Rodriguez said.
Raul Millena, chief of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources here said SMARTSeas PH project is expected to enhance the management of Davao Gulf being one of the five identified project sites across the country.
“The project’s goal is to promote conversation, protection, and sustainable management of marine resources which is also in line with the mandate of BFAR. With this initiative, the Bureau is continuously supporting this undertaking for the development of our fisheries industry,” Millena said.
It can be recalled that BFAR 11 has issued an order suspending the commercial fishing from June 1 to August 31 in the 308,000-hectare Davao Gulf. The fishing ban, which was the fifth to be imposed since 2013, would allow fishing for sustenance for local fisherfolks in the region.(davaotoday.com)