The Siete Pecados Marine Park located in Coron, northern Palawan has become a model for marine biodiversity protection in the Philippines. (Photo from USAID)

Four marine protected areas in Palawan were recently recognized for best resource management practices by the provincial government and the U.S. government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the city.

The Palawan MPAs Empowered through Awards and Recognition to Enrich Marine Life, or PEARL awards, were presented to Siete Pecados Marine Park, San Jose MPA, Balisungan MPA, and the Bulalacao MPA by USAID Philippines Deputy Mission Director Rebekah Eubanks and Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates in September during the 2nd Summit for MPAs in Puerto Princesa.

A statement from the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines said that Siete Pecados Marine Park was named Best Managed MPA while the San Jose MPA was named Best Emerging MPA. The Balisungan MPA and the Bulalacao MPA were also recognized as Best Community Managed MPA and as Best Locally Managed MPA, respectively.

The Calamianes MPA Network—an inter-LGU alliance between Busuanga, Coron, Culion, and Linapacan—also received a special award.

Palawan Governor Socrates, USAID Deputy Mission Director Eubanks, Palawan Provincial Agriculturist Dr. Romeo Cabungcal, and Provincial Board Member Ariston Arzaga highlight the importance of protecting biodiversity and improving maritime ecosystem governance at the second Palawan MPA Summit. (Photo by Blue Motus/USAID SIBOL)

“MPAs help protect the Philippines from threats such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing that endanger the livelihoods and well-being of coastal communities”, the statement said.

“Since 2018, USAID Fish Right has supported local governments and communities in the Calamian archipelago to address biodiversity threats, improve marine ecosystem governance, advance sustainable fisheries management, and increase fish biomass,” said Eubanks.

Discussions on environmental law enforcement, the encouragement of livelihood and biodiversity-friendly businesses in MPAs, and community engagement to rehabilitate MPAs damaged by Super Typhoon Odette last year were led by USAID during the summit.

Eubanks also met with government officials and stakeholders from the Kalayaan Islands Group to discuss IUU fishing threats in their area of the West Philippine Sea.

She was able to share ideas with members of the local community during a visit to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), who started an environmental fund for conservation activities within the national park by participating in community-managed savings and credit associations supported by USAID.

She also met with several conservation-focused civil society organizations in Palawan.

For more than 60 years, USAID has worked with the Philippine government and local organizations to achieve shared development goals, investing more than Php 247.5 billion ($5.1 billion) to support the Philippines since 1961.