MPAs in the Philippines: Ever more; ever better


Project Seahorse will unite with its partners to determine how we can speed up the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) throughout the Philippines and ensure that they are forever successful. We will coordinate a discussion-workshop in which we will share results from over 30 studies addressing the cultural, social, economic and biophysical need for, and impacts of, MPAs in the Philippines. Through our discussion-workshop we will marry our insights with our colleagues’ experiences and expertise. This marriage will trigger discussions that will allow us to collectively identify how to improve the planning, implementation, management and assessment of MPAs so that they continue to benefit communities and biodiversity over many generations.

Marine protected areas have gained considerable support globally over the past three decades. In theory, they represent a simple way of spurring ecological, social and economic benefits to the waters they protected and the communities who rely upon them. In reality, their effectiveness is highly variable and dependent upon many influences, ranging from community support and local fishing practices to climate-change impacts.

In the Philippines, MPAs are a story of two sides. On one hand, the Philippines is a world leader in MPA implementation, boasting over 1000 protected zones, many of which are run by local community groups. MPAs are now a fundamental tool in our effort to fulfill the national target of protecting 15% of coastal waters. On the other hand, most Filipino MPAs are very small, covering only about 3% of our coastline, and many fall woefully short of being truly protected. We must find ways to increase the number and effectiveness of MPAs if we are to succeed in protecting our cherished marine life.

Over the past two decades, Project Seahorse has helped over 30 communities across the Danajon Bank in the Central Visayas to establish, manage and assess MPAs. Along the way, we have run studies aiming to document various nuances of MPAs. The work spans the cultural, social, economic and ecological basis for, and impact of MPAs. Our conclusions provide unique and timely insights that could guide the way we design, implement, manage and assess MPAs, and to ensure they remain effective for generations.

But our story is only one piece in the puzzle of Philippine MPA experiences. To see the big picture we are calling on colleagues from a range of social, political and academic backgrounds to share their own insights.

To this end, we organized this three-day discussion-workshop. Our work will form the foundation of the first two days, in which we will briefly present key results from 30 studies. Participants will comment on this work, and share their own insights, be they concordant with or contradictory of our own. On the third day we will work as one to determine how our collective experiences can translate into meaningful improvements in four aspects of MPA work: 1. planning; 2. implementation; 3. management and assessment; 4. long-term sustainability.

Together, we will produce principles to guide the way we do marine conservation in the Philippines and beyond. Our collective endeavour will help to ensure that ever more MPAs are set up and that they become ever better.