Park rangers Caranay, Conales, David and Bundal at the Tubbataha Ranger Station.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) formally recognized the rangers of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) during the 3rd International Ranger Award in a ceremony held on July 26.

The ceremony, which was conducted by IUCN WCPA in collaboration with the International Ranger Federation, Re:wild, Conservation Allies, Universal Ranger Support Alliance, IUCN US and WWF Tigers Alive Initiative, honored individuals and groups for their work in safeguarding and protecting natural parks.

Park rangers Segundo Conales Jr., Noel Bundal, Jeffrey David, and Cresencio Caranay Jr.received the award “for their dedicated service and commitment as marine rangers,” along with $10,000 cash prize to support the conservation work of their organization.

As the group acknowledged the citation, David said the honor belongs to all park rangers manning the station in Tubbataha Reefs, from Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and the municipal government of Cagayancillo, who he said in one way or another, has contributed to the conservation and protection of the park.

“We never thought that we will get noticed here in the middle of Sulu Sea. This recognition for our efforts here in Tubbataha has given a boost to our confidence to perform our jobs better,” David said.

“It is a great honor for us to have received the International Ranger Award and we, together with our park superintendent Angelique Songco and our other colleagues are truly grateful for this,” he added.

Songco also said that while only the four park rangers received the award, they represented all rangers assigned in Tubbataha.

“These four are the core of the rangers assigned in Tubbataha who regularly come and go there every two months,” Songco said.

She added that between the four of them, they have a total of around 65 years of being assigned in Tubbataha.

“One has 23 years under his belt, the other has 20, and the youngest has 12 years. They have been park rangers for the last 20 years where around 10 years were spent in Tubbataha,” she said.

Songco likewise said she was elated as she expressed pride for the ranger team’s award, also recognizing their efforts and sacrifices in the park.

“I am so keenly aware of the personal sacrifices of the men who safeguard the Tubbataha Reefs, who are away from family and friends for long periods of time, missing birthdays, graduations, burials, and other significant occasions. To be recognized for their efforts makes all their hardships worthwhile. I am so proud of the marine park rangers of Tubbataha! Mabuhay kayo!” she said.

The Tubbataha park superintendent fondly called as Mama Ranger further stated that aside from safeguarding the country’s rich marine biodiversity habitat, the personnel manning the Tubbataha ranger station have also been doubling as snorkling guides to tourists and even offer extra
supplies during rough sea conditions.

The rangers also perform research jobs by collecting significant ecological data that assist conservation management in decision-making, and communicate the importance of protecting Tubbataha Reefs through educational outreach initiatives that have increased local support for the protected area.

Songco also said the rangers are known among local communities for treating offenders with respect and participating in a government restorative justice program.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 970 square kilometer TRNP is home to more than 181 species of marine life, most of which are either threatened or endangered.

Having met the highest scientific standards of conservation effectiveness earned it the Blue Park Award in 2017 from the Marine Conservation Institute.

“The Blue Parks team at Marine Conservation Institute is excited and proud to shine a light on Tubbataha Reefs rangers’ commitment to safeguarding marine wildlife,” said Dr. Sarah Hameed, Director of Blue Parks and Senior Scientist at Marine Conservation Institute.

“We nominated these rangers for the International Ranger Award because we know what an important role they play in making Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park the exemplary Blue Park that it is,” she explained.