Tubbataha Reefs law wins int’l award

KD Suarez

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The law protecting the world-famous Tubbataha Reef National Park has been cited as one of the world's best practices in marine environment conservation

Image by Ron Van Oers/ Unesco

MANILA, Philippines – The law protecting the world-famous Tubbataha Reefs National Park has been cited as one of the world’s best practices in marine environment conservation.

Republic Act 10067, or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park Act of 2009 (TRNP Act), was awarded one of two silver awards at the 2012 Future Policy Awards (FPA), the World Future Council (WFC) announced Wednesday, September 26, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The law was cited by the WFC as an “example of successful coral reef conservation and a model for action on other coral reefs.”

Approved in 2009 and enacted April 2010, the Act ensured proper management of the Unesco World Heritage Site, located in Cagayancillo, Palawan, by “strengthening the legislative mandate of its managing bodies.”

It is also a key step in enacting national-level policies, the WFC said, like the 1992 National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.

“The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act demonstrates the critical need for national level policy to support local level action, giving permanence and power to local level institutions to confront regional threats such as illegal fishing, poaching and destructive fishing practices undertaken by foreign vessels,” the citation read.

“Tubbataha has shown that with carefully planned management, local communities need not bear the burden of closed protected areas, but can be their primary beneficiaries: as a nursery ground for fish, the reefs are supporting local artisanal fisheries,” it added.

Similar legislation is now being enacted in the neighboring Apo Reef.

Angelique Songco, Protected Area Superintendent and head of the Tubbataha Management Office, says they’re proud of the law that was crafted for Tubbataha, since it recognizes the role of the local community in preserving a heritage site.

THE TUBBATAHA TEAM. Members of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) led by its head, Angelique Songco (6th from left). Photo courtesy of TRNP.

Funds for the preservation of Tubbataha are managed by the 19-person board of Tubbataha, she says, which is composed of local leaders led by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development which is headed by Gov Abraham Mitra. “It’s a novelty,” she told Rappler.

For one, the military — as guardians of the sea through the Navy and Marines — is part of the board, she added.

Before the law’s enactment in 2010 (it was crafted in 2009), the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park was established in 1988. The Park will be celebrating its silver anniversary next year, and thus the silver award came at a good time, Songco said.

Palau top prize; Namibia also gets silver

Sharing the silver award with the TRNP Act is Namibia’s Marine Resources Act of 2000, which has successfully helped the African nation manage its marine resources through eco-friendly and economically sustainable ways.

The Namibian law “established strict monitoring and control systems and regulations addressing the key drivers of degradation of marine capture fisheries: bycatch, illegal fishing, overcapacity from subsidies and harmful fishing gear,” the WFC said.

The top award, meanwhile, went to Palau for its Shark Haven Act of 20098 and its Protected Areas Network (PAN) Act of 2003.

Palau’s PAN Act was cited for having “all the elements of successful management for people and environment.”

“The Act involves local communities by enabling them to undertake a scientific and social assessment of their local environment and supports traditional systems of natural resource management, which have a long history in Palau,” the group said in its citation.

So far, the law has caused the designation of 35 protected areas, as it aims to have at least 30% of the island-nation’s near-shore marine environment and 20% of its land environment included by 2020.

Meanwhile, the Shark Haven Act ensured the protection of more than 100 species of deepwater and reef sharks. The law is now a model for shark conservation in countries such as the Honduras, the Bahamas, and the Maldives.

‘Interests of future generations’

The 4 policies bested 27 others from 19 countries, nominated by various international organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The awardees were chosen by a jury consisting of sustainability experts from around the world.

The Future Policy Awards has been handed out since 2009 by the WFC, a group of experts that focus on issues concerning the “interests of future generations,” aiming to address challenges the world faces in the future.

Aside from the WFC, the award is sponsored by the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Environment Facility, and the Okeanos – Foundation for the Sea.

This year’s FPA focused on the marine and coastal conservation. In the past, winning policies include the Food Security Program of Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2009, first award); the Costa Rica Biodiversity Law of 1998 (2010); and Rwanda’s National Forest Policy (2011).

“The 2012 Future Policy Award highlights the challenges faced by the world’s oceans as well as exemplary solutions to protect them,” the FPA said.

The awards will be formally handed out at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, India, on Oct 16, 2012. – Rappler.com

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