Malampaya Foundation bags award for ‘marine protected area’ in Palawan

Published February 14, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

Malampaya Foundation’s help to the community in preserving and upholding the integrity of the Bulalacao marine protected area (MPA) has been bestowed with award and recognition by the provincial government of Palawan.

The Bulalacao marine protected area in Coron, Palawan was named as the province’s “Best Community-Management MPA”, having been bequeathed with active support in the recovery and regeneration of coastal and marine ecosystems in the area.

The Malampaya-assisted Bulalacao project named best “Marine Protected Area” in Palawan.

According to Karen Agabin, executive director of Malampaya Foundation, “through the collaborative effort of all stakeholders, we have observed a 100-fold increase in fish abundance, along with the return of long-absent endangered species like the napoleon wrasse.”

She chronicled that “when we first mapped and surveyed Bulalacao back in 2012, the surrounding ocean was in a horrible state – with reefs and the fishing grounds heavily damaged from decades of dynamite and other unsustainable fishing methods.”

On those years, she further narrated that “you would hardly see any fish, any marine life,” hence, that served as an awakening endeavor for the Malampaya Foundation to breathe life back into the Bulalaco MPA’s ecosystem.

That worthy undertaking, according to the Malampaya Foundation, was pursued in multi-pronged partnerships with the Bulalacao indigenous peoples’ group, the local government of Coron, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), as well as the Philippine Coast Guard.

The other key government-partners have been the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Energy (DOE) and the Philippine National Police-Maritime.

The 3,297-hectare Bulalacao MPA, which was established in 2014, comprises of two strict protection zones and two sustainable use zones.

Agabin emphasized “the establishment and launch of Bulalacao MPA is a culmination of about two years of social preparation, collaboration and cooperation” between the barangay and Tagbanua leaders, community members, the Coron municipal government, NCIP, BFAR, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and the Malampaya Foundation.

She noted that the longer-term goal for the MPA is “to see continuous coral regeneration,” and a large component of that task is attained by “addressing the coastal communities, making them our partners, and getting their leaders to contribute in the overall marine conservation effort.”

Agabin stressed “with the active participation of all stakeholders, we are very optimistic to see a sustainable development in coral regeneration.”

It was in October 2019 when tourism establishments around the Bulalacao area had inked a partnership deal, calling for a concerted effort “to help protect the site’s biodiversity with strengthened protection and enforcement.”

As further noted, in the regular monitoring of the site, a local diver had been engaged to undertake frequent reef monitoring as well as to assist Malampaya project managers and marine biologists in their twice-a-year assessments.