Oceana Launches Philippine Office


Oceana Launches Philippine Office
1st quarter 2015 • Philippines
Oceana launches
Philippine office
hite sand beaches, shimmering coral reefs, and clear blue
waters – these are the images that often come to mind when
the Philippines is mentioned. What many people do not
realize is that the country is also the center of marine biodiversity in the
world. From manta rays to mangroves, bountiful bays and whale sharks,
this archipelago of 7,100 islands has it all.
It is estimated that more than 1.3 million small-scale fishers, the poorest
sector in the Philippines, depend on these waters for their livelihood. With
an annual marine catch of more than two million metric tons, the country
ranks 14th in the world for fisheries.
Photo by Edwin Castillon
In his annual message, founder Michael R. Bloomberg said: “Our approach
will, for the first time, reform both local and industrial fishing practices and
help leverage private capital to produce a transition to more sustainable
fishing. We will begin this work in Brazil, Chile, and the Philippines, which
together account for 7 percent of the fish caught worldwide.”
Oceana intends to support the government in its goal to promote national
policies that protect the Philippines’ vast marine resources, using the law to
ensure that fish and fishers receive much-needed attention and local action.
For these reasons, Oceana – the largest international organization focused
exclusively on restoring the world’s oceans – is proud to announce its launch
in the Philippines, where it will work to rebuild the nation’s fisheries in
partnership with Filipino citizens.
Led by Vice President Atty. Gloria “Golly” Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Philippines
will promote strong policy reforms aimed at restoring the bounty of its waters.
“In a nation where fishing is critical to the livelihood of millions, it is deeply
concerning that more than 75 percent of our fishing grounds are depleted.
Overexploitation has been driven by excess fishing pressure, a lack of
coordination among agencies, destructive fishing and until recently, a lack
of political will to implement the laws,” says Ramos.
The Philippine program is part of the $53-million Vibrant Oceans initiative
of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Launched in 2014, the project aims to protect
the supply of fish and keep the oceans thriving in the future.
In the early morning sun, men and women
gather shells and go fishing along the shores
of Moalboal town in Tañon Strait, a marine
protected area that is considered one of the
richest fishing grounds in the country.
Where have all
the fish gone?
At the National Fisheries Symposium,
experts look for answers
BFAR Director Asis Perez
Seedlings for mangrove rehabilitation in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.
Atty. Golly Ramos
The BFAR director noted that 70% of the protein requirement of Filipinos
comes from fish. However, he said 41% of the population in the fisheries
sector is poor due to lack of post-harvest facilities such as cold storage,
processing of value-added products, and marketing support.
Atty. Gerthie Mayo Anda, Executive Director of the Environmental Legal
Assistance Center, spoke about conflict resolution in fisheries management.
Among the types of conflict they have encountered are access to fishing
grounds, law enforcement, and the rights of fishers.
Legal reforms
Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President of Oceana Philippines, said
the country has a “very progressive legal system for the protection of the
environment and the species and their habitats,” citing the creation of
environmental courts and the rules of procedure from the Supreme Court
for environmental cases as examples.
Meanwhile, civil society leaders shared their experiences in saving marine
habitats from destruction, and said much more needs to be done to ensure
the viability of fisheries.
Dennis Calvan, executive director of NGOs for Fisheries Reform, cited the
gains in the cancellation of foreshore lease agreements and providing land
tenure security for fishing households.
Dr. Daniel Pauly
To help launch operations in the Philippines, Oceana hosted a two-day
conference on Nov. 3-4, 2014 with the theme, “The Road to Sustainable
Fisheries Governance.”
Dr. Mike Hirshfield, Oceana’s Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer, formally
introduced Oceana to some 100 stakeholders from the government and
fisheries sectors, the justice system, academia, NGOs & POs, and the
business community.
For two days, delegates discussed various perspectives on the state of
fisheries in the Philippines. Resource persons shared best practices in
sustainable fisheries governance and effective law enforcement, and
everyone took part in exchanging views about challenges, impacts, and
reform proposals.
Fishery violations
Atty. Asis Perez, National Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic
Resources (BFAR), shared the government’s efforts in combating illegal,
unregistered and unreported fishing since 2011.
In his opening speech at the symposium, Perez said the government has
proposed raising the maximum penalty for serious fishery violations to
P10 million, from a measly P10,000 in the past.
“We are doing this to protect our people,” said Perez. “There will be enough
teeth in the law for violators to feel the pain.”
In addition, he announced that the government is hiring 778 new enforcers
with plantilla positions, backed up by over 100 vessels and sufficient funds
for fuel to go against illegal fishers.
However, he cautioned against greater attention given to the tourism
industry in the rehabilitation of foreshore areas ravaged by super typhoon
Haiyan last year, saying the livelihood of affected fishers needs to be
prioritized as well.
Vince Cinches of Greenpeace-Southeast Asia presented a “Roadmap to
Recovery of Philippine Oceans” which aims to manage fishing capacity,
improve the condition of critical ecosystems, benefit fishers, and strengthen
government efforts.
Justino Dacillo, a provincial fisherfolk representative, talked about his
group’s efforts in enforcing fisheries laws in the province of Quezon.
He said some of the outcomes included a reduction in the incidence of
illegal fishing, increased participation in BFAR planning, more effective
checks & balances in fisheries development, and better inter-municipality
cooperation in northern Lamon Bay.
Senior Superintendent Romulo Esteban from the Philippine National
Police in Region 5 reported on the effectiveness of their campaign that has
won them awards. Their collaboration efforts with other sectors resulted
in 272 operations and 1,781 people arrested in the Bicol region in the first
nine months of 2014 alone, which represents a huge increase from their
previous year’s record.
Faster decline in fisheries
Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly, who leads the “Sea Around Us
Project” at the University of British Columbia, delivered the keynote
address at the conference.
He presented the results of a global study that indicated world fisheries
catch is much higher than previously thought, and declining much faster
than data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests.
In the Philippines, Dr. Pauly noted that much of the data from small-scale
fishing is not included in the estimates for fisheries catch, even though
these are also sold in the market.
He said that much of the data coming from governments and fed into the
FAO database, which is the only source globally of fishery statistics, are
“biased downward” and do not include harvest from activities such as reef
gleaning and sports fishing.
Dr. Pauly led a workshop among scientists to discuss research work on the
reconstruction of Filipino fisheries following the conference.
Photos by Yasmin Arquiza, Rafael Bonnelly, Charlotte Grubb, Jenn Hueting, Candeze Mongaya,
and Rob Stewart; additional photos from files
Angelique Songco, Park Superintendent of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural
Park in Palawan, shared the good news that no incidents of illegal fishing
have been recorded in the marine protected area since 2012. From the
cases filed in previous years, 34% of violators have been convicted, 57%
have been arraigned or are awaiting trial, while 3% were acquitted.
“Protecting natural resources depends on good governance. Good governance
depends on rule of law. Rule of law depends on compliance,” Songco said.
A fisherfolk’s family selects fish in Malampaya Sound,
Palawan. Photo by Rafael Bonnelly
Cebu hosts first ever
Tañon Strait summit
as the playground of cetaceans, with at least 14 species
of whales and dolphins found in its waters.
Tañon Strait was declared a protected seascape, the
biggest marine protected area in the country, by thenPresident Fidel Ramos on May 27, 1998. It covers
521,018 hectares and borders 677 kilometers of
coastline in three provinces.
Previous research has identified 70 species of fish and
20 species of crustaceans in Tañon Strait, which is
known to have an abundance of squid, shrimp, clams,
and crabs.
t has taken 17 years, and with the concerted efforts
of government agencies and civil society, the Tañon
Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) management
board and stakeholders are finally meeting for the first
time in a landmark summit and general assembly in
Cebu City on Feb. 10-12, 2015.
With more than 350 members, the Tañon Strait
Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has
never held a general assembly due to its sheer
size and conflicts between national agencies and
local government units regarding jurisdiction and
overlapping functions, said Protected Area Supervisor
Viernov Grefalde.
It also harbors a diverse range of marine habitats
including 26 species of mangroves; 18,830 hectares of
coral reefs representing 15 families; and seven species
of seagrass, according to various studies.
The Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), which chairs the PAMB, signed
a memorandum of agreement with the marine
conservation organization, Oceana Philippines, and
RARE last January 15, 2015 as partners in organizing
the general meeting of Tañon Strait stakeholders.
Members of the PAMB include the local chief
executives of 298 barangays, as well as 42 cities and
municipalities. There are 126 locally managed and
smaller marine protected areas within Tañon Strait.
“Convening the PAMB and holding the stakeholders’
summit are bold, big and essential first steps to ensure
governance in TSPS that is participatory, transparent,
accountable, predictable and effective,” said Oceana
Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.
Known as one of the ten richest fishing grounds in
the country, Tañon Strait is a narrow body of water
between the islands of Cebu and Negros. It is known
She noted that weak enforcement of laws and
incoherent policies pose major challenges for Tañon
Strait. For instance, she recalled that the government
Printed on recycled paper
allowed offshore drilling for oil in 2007 in its waters,
even though it is a high priority conservation area for
reef fishes.
Ramos said citizen engagement and progressive
leaders hold the key to the promotion of sustainable
fishing in the Philippines. “Laws, rulings and rules
remain empty if not implemented by the government
and environmental rights are not asserted by the
people,” she concluded.