Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act

Seascape in Coral Hard Field (© Robert Yin)
Published: 04 August 2015
Last edited: 05 October 2020
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Summary

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) Act showcases the most successful management of a remote no-take reserve in the Philippines. The formulation of policies for TRNP involved multiple consultations with a cross section of society from village to national level. The consultative process ensured that the affected communities and stakeholders were able to shape the contours of the law, thereby embedding fairness in rule-making and inspiring voluntary compliance.

Classifications

Region
Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Theme
Local actors
Protected area governance
World Heritage
Challenges
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation

Location

Cagayancillo, Philippines
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Challenges

anthropogenic pressure with sustainable methods to keep the natural status The ecological function of Tubbataha Reefs as a major source of coral and fish larvae in the Sulu Sea requires that resources are sustained in as natural a state as possible, hence anthropogenic pressure needs to be kept to a minimum. The solution aims at enforcing capacities, equipment and finances to enable local communities to manage this remote site effectively and sustainably.

Beneficiaries

municipality of Cagayancillo, tourism, marine park rangers and management and the people

How do the building blocks interact?

Management of the marine park is decentralized and democratized involving multiple stakeholders from the municipal and local government, NGOs, academia, the private sector as well as national and local government agencies. The Act underlines the critical need for national level policy to support local level action, giving permanence and power to local level institutions. The TRNP Act is a key step towards implementing national level policies such as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, and similar legislation has been passed in the neighboring Apo Reef. The solution works through (1) direct involvement of the resource users and other relevant stakeholders in the harmonization and formulation of laws, operating rules and regulations, (2) a locally-based, collaborative managing body, (3) through providing the needed technical surveillance equipment and developing the necessary enforcement, operation and maintenance capacities to enable the MPA management agency to carry out the policies, and (4) a sustainable financing system that simultaneously compensates communities for economic losses.

Impacts

As important nursery site, TRNP supports local artisanal and commercial fisheries outside the park, being in better condition and more productive than other reefs; fish biomass continuously increased for the last decade. All monitored socio-economic indicators demonstrate an increase in living standards of the local population, e.g. a 90% increase in income for the nearest fishing villages. Other provinces adopt the TRNP penalty scheme to charge ship owners for damaging reefs. The TRNP Act is a model for other MPAs in the Philippines. As being an UNESCO-World Heritage Site with high global visibility, TRNP highlights how legal instruments enable effective governance.

Story

At 4 a.m. on 17 January 2013, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Rangers spotted an unknown ship in the vicinity. The ship turned out to be the USS Guardian, a US Navy warship that ran aground on the reef. The 224-foot ship damaged an area of 2,345.67 square meters, determined through an assessment conducted by the University of the Philippines, Tubbataha Management Office and World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines through the assistance of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The vessel had to be removed from the reef in segments, an operation that took about 10 weeks. Initially, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board issued a notice of violation to the US government and, upon removal of the ship from the reef on 30 March 2013, communicated the total cost of damage and penalties for violations. These violations include unauthorised entry, damage to the reef, destruction of resources, non-payment of conservation fees for entering the park area and obstruction of law enforcement officers. Thus, the US Navy is facing a fine of 58 million Philippine Pesos or US$1.4 million after the minesweeper damaged the UNESCO World Heritage site. This amount is based on fines stipulated in Republic Act No. 10067, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009. Reckoning the cost of damage was straightforward and uncomplicated because it is based on clearly articulated provisions embodied in the TRNP Act. The US government has repeatedly verbalised its intention to compensate the Philippines for the damage, but it is yet to actualise this promise.

Contributed by

Angelique M. Songco Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Other contributors

Tubbataha Management Office (TMO)