PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc.’ (PFPI) SEApherd Project will hold a a peer educators’ summit in a bid to amplify citizen-led marine conservation advocacy in Palawan.

The summit is called “Arampangan y ang Peer Educators: Puso para sa Karagatan (A Convergence of Conservation Champions: I Love the Ocean).” It will be held on May 29–30 at the A&A Plaza Hotel, in Puerto Princesa City.

The objective of this initiative, as part of the USAID INSPIRE Project, is to stimulate community-based education and advocacy among coastal stakeholders, emphasizing the important role of grassroots efforts in protecting marine biodiversity.

The SEApherd Project has provided training to 133 community eco-warriors and peer educators in critical marine biodiversity areas in northern Palawan and the Calamianes Island Group (CIG) bioregions since 2022.

These educators, who represent a variety of groups, including women, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, students, and local government officials, have become local “Conservation Champions,” advocating for sustainable fisheries management.

Dominador Peñaranda Jr., a fisherman, environmental activist, and educator from El Nido, in northern Palawan, points out the significance of local community engagement in preserving and safeguarding the province’s marine resources, which are renowned as the Philippines’ “last frontier.”

He holds the position of chairperson in the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC) of his town.

“The role of coastal stakeholders, particularly communities dependent on the ocean for livelihood, is indispensable in strengthening marine conservation efforts through advocacy and education, especially in the context of the changing climate,” Peñaranda said.

The convergence event will assemble approximately 100 people, comprising peer educators, government representatives, and project partners, to exchange optimal methodologies, strengthen capabilities, and collaboratively formulate sustainability action plans.

Arampangan y ang Peer Educators will feature workshops on gender, leadership, community mobilization, and advocacy, as well as self-awareness exercises and interactive small-group discussions.

“The need for inter-sectoral, inter-generational, and multi-stakeholder collaboration is crucial to advance peer education and help lead to marine conservation outcomes,” Peñaranda added.

This sentiment echoes the event’s objective of uniting peer educators as a formidable constituency advocating for responsible behaviors and practices in utilizing natural resources.

A highlight of the event will be a symbolic human formation advocating against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, demonstrating collective commitment to marine conservation.

The activity, which will be conducted in Barangay Tagburos, Puerto Princesa City, on May 30, aims to raise awareness and inspire action within and beyond the community.

As the summit will also serve as a platform for knowledge sharing and the synthesis of best practices, the organizers hope that the community of champions will be able to identify ways to scale up peer education as a means of addressing broader development concerns such as population growth and its impact on ecosystems, health, and food security, among others.

Dr. Joan Castro, Executive Vice President of PFPl, underscores the significance of the event, especially in culminating the Month of the Ocean celebration.

“As the community of champions converges in Puerto Princesa City, we hope that the event will not only further inspire, empower, and elevate the capacities of our local conservation leaders but also generate the momentum to sustain their commitment to advocate for a healthy populace and a sustainable future, be catalysts of change in their respective communities, and multiply themselves in other individuals,” Dr. Castro said.