Five southern municipality mayors sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) towards the creation of Southern Palawan Initiative Dedication for Environment Protection and Management (SPIDERMAN). (Photo courtesy of Clea Faye Cahayag)

Five southern Palawan mayors signed an agreement Monday to protect, restore, and conserve key marine biodiversity areas in their municipalities and formed a task force called “SPIDERMAN” to ensure its implementation.

The task force’s name refers to the Southern Palawan Initiative Dedication for Environment Protection and Management, or SPIDERMAN, which was created to carry out the aims of the Marine Protected Area Network (MPAN).

The memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed by Aborlan mayor Celsa Adier, Narra mayor Gerandy Danao, Sofronio Española mayor Marsito Acoy, Bataraza mayor Abraham Ibba, and Brooke’s Point mayor Mary Jean Feliciano.

The MOA signing was conducted during the first day of the Palawan Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Summit 2019 in Puerto Princesa, August 19.

This agreement targets that these five towns collaborate on sustainable development goals through proper conservation, utilization, and development of natural resources.

Palawan vice governor Dennis Socrates said in an interview during the Palawan MPA Summit 2019 that they are also looking forward to set-up the same task force in other parts of Palawan.

He said this initiative is under the Strengthening Marine Protected Areas to Conserve Marine Key Biodiversity Areas in the Philippines (SMARTSeas), one of the development programs of United Nations (UN).

“Apparently inuunti-unti lang, hindi lang siguro agad kayang sabay-sabayin. Ngayon nga patapos na ‘yong SMARTSeas, kaya inaapura rin nila na malipat na sa LGUs ‘yong responsibilidad. So itong MOA na ito among the five LGUs na nakasama o partido, ay in a way na simula na ng paglipat sa kanila dahil paalis na ‘yong SMARTSeas. Eventually ganoon ‘yong mangyayari. Ang papel ng provincial is really supervisory, following the principle of subsidiarity,” said Socrates.

Socrates said the office of the provincial agriculturist is always willing to coordinate everything and be of help to these five towns.

Main objectives

Based on the signed document obtained by Palawan News from Socrates, it noted that the agreement also solicits combined efforts of the provincial government, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine National Police (PNP), Maritime, Coastguard, Civil Society Organizations (CSO), and other stakeholders.

Also under the objectives of SPIDERMAN is to ensure proper cooperation among towns towards the apprehension of the violators.

It also requires the group to ensure the conservation, protection, and restoration of rare and endemic and threatened species.

SPIDERMAN was also tasked to address the balance between socioeconomic and governance issues in managing the MPAs.

Duties and responsibilities

Its tasks will include encouragement support from constituents and other concerned agencies; formulation of plans and programs for a judicious management of MPAN Southern Palawan; enforcement of fishery laws, and active collaboration with necessary parties towards the institutionalization of SPIDERMAN.

Its other duties and responsibilities are: conducting information education campaigns (IEC) for the continuous learnings and enhancement of skills of its members; quarterly meetings and consolidation of reports of related activities and apprehensions, and identification of common issues and challenges with a recommended solutions provided.

Institutional Arrangement and Mechanisms

The MOA document indicates that the establishment of SPIDERMAN could guarantee the “interdependence, solidarity, assistance, and interaction” among its five member-municipalities.

It also noted that a management board must be established, which will be comprised of the town mayors and concerned departments, and other government and private groups.

A secretariat to assume the documentations and reports is also to be established, which must rotate every year among the five municipalities.

Annual evaluation of progress and activities shall be conducted by the board, which will meet once a year for “cost-sharing activities, project proposals, and other important matters to discuss.”

Speaking of the Palawan MPA Summit 2019 in general with a theme “Sustaining Effectiveness of Management of marine Protected Areas”, provincial board member Albert Rama told Palawan News Monday he considers this event as very relevant, especially with Palawan’s growing population.

Rama also reiterated the present encroachment of China in the Philippine waters makes this summit more timely and necessary.

“Mas maganda na nagkakaisa, nagkakaunawaan lahat ng mga munisipyo natin kung papaano poporotektahan ‘yong ating karagatan. Napakaganda nito, magbibigay ito ng kalinawan ng kaisipan ng bawat mamamayan ng lalawigan na kinakailangan ay magkaisa tayo sa pangangalaga ng ating karagatan,” said Rama.

Rama said he expects more aggressive law enforcement operations from the local government units (LGUs) after this two-day Palawan MPA Summit 2019.