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BPEMO: Bohol MPAs have eco-tourism potential

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, May 19 (PIA) -- Aside from the assured abundance of fish and marine resources inside marine protected areas (MPA) and its buffer zones as long as these are managed right, these designated and delineated areas also have potentials for eco-tourism.

Bohol Provincial Environment Management Office (BPEMO) Section Head for Coastal Resource Management (CRM) Villa Pelindingue detailed during the weekly Kapihan sa PIA how communities with well-managed fish sanctuaries are cashing in on tourism revenues from their community-managed areas.

MPAs - or better understood as fish sanctuaries, marine reserves or marine parks - are any specific marine area that has been reserved by law or other effective means and is governed by specific rules or guidelines to manage activities and protect the entire, or part of, the enclosed coastal and marine environment and may include mangrove areas, sea grass beds, estuarine areas and coral reefs, said Pelindengue at the online radio forum.

“Serving generally as natural heritage, cultural heritage conservation site, and sustainable production areas, these are  defined by law after community planning, as after all, it is the community’s food security that is at stake if they do not put up effective MPS,” added Garcia who has racked about two decades of CRM work with Bohol communities.

In 2002, in a bid to assure sustainable food for Bohol, then Governor Erico Aumentado issued Executive Order No. 47 series of 2002 which encouraged coastal communities to establish MPAs in the respective municipal waters.

The local push was also based on Section 81 of RA 10654 or the amended Fisheries Code of the Philippines which mandates local government units (LGUs) with their Fisheries and Agri Resource Management Councils (FARMCs) to establish fish refuge and sanctuaries of at least 15% of the total coastal areas in each town based on best available scientific data of fish stocks, marine resource density, and need for protection.

At this, MPA establishment covers mangrove, seagrass beds, and coral reef areas, BPEMO authorities said.

By keeping these areas undisturbed by human activity, chances of fish spawning, breeding or seeking refuge increases, further attracting marine biodiversity, high density schools of fish, seasonal fish variations are expected to increase, CRM specialists said. 

In recent years, Bohol embarked on a program of enhancing these sites by seeding and reintroducing the already extinct giant claims, mussels and abalones, the biodiversity expected to add more marine creatures drawn by the spawning giants.

The move has seen improvements in fish stocks, coral cover, and MPA physical environment, variety of marine life and the occasional entry of visiting large fish in the MPA which also attracts the attention of both fishermen and tourists, Asotilla said.

Since 2002, Bohol has established 184 MPAs.

Since then, 84 are still in the first level status.

This is still in the establishment stage and would have to be strengthened for the community to properly manage and conserve the resources in the protected area.

Another 33 MPAs have been strengthened now and 18 are sustaining in their CRM initiatives.

With still only one MPA institutionalized, the prospects of a tourism interaction area in a marine reserve looks tempting.

With the community as managers, sports fishing tourists riding in rented community paddle boats anchored in permanent mooring buoys to prevent corral damage, setting fishing limits like fish and pay schemes through hook and line and using passive traditional equipment, using throw nets and gill nets with mesh size large enough to allow the escape of small fish species and juveniles of larger fish, setting up of fish traps, corrals and offering guided snorkeling and free dive trips and implementing permit and user fee systems.

Set as a management strategy used in Bingag Dauis MPA, permits and user fee systems can also help avoid overexploitation of marine resources while generating revenues.

With the 184 MPS in place, BPEMO said “our challenge is how to ensure that these MPAs are active and functioning well. For now, Provincial Government through BPEMO targets reorganization and reactivation of all MPAs 2025.”

Based on BPEMO data, almost half of these MPAs are inactive. (RAHC/PIA7 Bohol)

BPEMO authorities especially in the coastal resource management sector are set to implement the reorganization and revitalization of Bohol’s 184 MPAs for eco-tourism potential, as an added value to the sustainable marine resource available to the community if these are properly managed. (PIA Bohol/BPEMO)

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Rey Anthony Chiu

Regional Editor

Region 7

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