DENR issues memo to strengthen MPAN

April 12, 2022 Cory Martinez 306 views

IN an effort to improve the coastal and marine environment, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and two other state agencies have issued a joint memorandum circular that aims to strengthen the establishment of marine protected area networks (MPAN), restore damaged coastal ecosystems, and enrich coral reefs and marine habitats.

Aside from DENR, the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) were the signatories of the said joint memorandum, which mandates them to collaborate for the improvement of the coastal and marine environment.

Dr. Vincent V. Hilomen, DENR-SMARTSeas PH national project manager, said that the eventual approval of the joint policy guidelines on establishing and managing MPANs will be valuable in biodiversity conservation efforts.

The DENR-SMARTSeas PH Project, or “Strengthening Marine Protected Areas to Conserve Marine Key Biodiversity Areas in the Philippines”, is a six-year initiative of the DENR-Biodiverisity Management Bureau (BMB) aimed to accelerate the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and MPANs to include more marine key biodiversity areas (KBAs) to reduce and arrest the rapid degradation of marine and coastal habitats.

Hilomen explained that the joint memorandum ensures that biodiversity conservation is given priority equally along with economic development.

“There will be a value for a government policy that [considers] conservation equally important to development and progress. Many of the degraded coastal and marine habitats resulted from the relentless push for development and progress with a little afterthought of the higher costs to the environment,” said Hilomen.

The joint efforts of the three agencies will help government hurdle the difficulties of putting up MPA and MPAN amid coastal residents’ usual opposition against these.

MPAN is a collection of individual MPAs or reserves operating cooperatively and synergistically under the SMARTSeas.

“One of the greatest challenges that we are experiencing in establishing MPANs is still the acceptance of the community. There are several instances where the communities resist to set aside a portion of their waters for protection purposes because they think that access to their fishing areas will be limited,” said Hilomen.

Hilomen further stressed that it is important that government capacitates its MPA/MPAN workforce to empower them in harnessing cooperation from communities in establishing the MPA/MPANs.

“A thorough discussion of the benefits from protection and consultation with the community from the onset is a must. The involvement of the community in protection is critical,” he added.

The DENR’s SMARTSeas PH project is funded under a $28.53 million co-financing scheme between the government and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It also received a GEF grant of $8 million.

The SMARTSeas PH has so far capacitated at least 70 key DENR regional and field staff through online distance learning.

Hilomen disclosed that this is the first-ever of its kind of capacity-building activity in the DENR.

The increased competencies included identification and approaches to resolving threats to the marine environment.

The establishment of three MPANs led to the development of nearly 90 management bodies of MPAs and MPANs that have demonstrated increased competencies for management effectiveness.

SMARTSeas has also developed a better monitoring and evaluation system for MPAs and MPANs, which provided an important guide to monitoring management progress across the country.

Protection of coastal ecosystems under the MPA includes patrolling, surveillance of habitats, the conduct of direct activities, and repair of signages, other facilities, gears, and equipment.