Hon. Fe G. Maruhom, Mayor of San Francisco, Southern Leyte reveals their municipality's initiatives to strengthen their MPAs.
Can you tell us about the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in San Francisco? What can be found in these MPAs?
San Francisco currently has three MPAs, as follows:
- Napantao MPA
This was established in the 1990s after Mr. Rio Cahimbing discovered the famous “Rio’s Wall” which introduced this area to the diving community. Napantao Wall is a must-see for foreign and local divers visiting Southern Leyte due to the presence of diverse corals, fish, and invertebrates. There are also reported sightings of resident black tip sharks, sea turtles, whale sharks, sunfish, and manta rays.
- Punta MPA
This was previously a fishing ground in Barangay Punta because of its diverse coral reefs and healthy population of fish and invertebrates. However, in 2003, several landslides displaced many communities and covered vast areas of coral reefs. To give tribute to those who lost their lives and to serve as legacy for the next generations, the community decided to establish this MPA in their honor. Currently, the reefs are slowly bouncing back which are evident through the diverse coral reefs and bountiful fish and invertebrates sighted in Punta.
- Sta. Paz Sur MPA
This MPA was established in the late 2000s through the cooperation of the local government unit, Coral Cay Conservation (CCC) and Sta. Paz Sur officials and constituents. The divers in San Francisco fondly call this MPA “Anna’s Garden” after our Swedish friend from CCC who actively participated in the establishment of this MPA. Its main features include healthy corals and large populations of stone fish, sea cucumbers, and sea slugs.
How are the locals involved in protecting the MPAs?
Some locals are members of the MPA Management Committee. However, due to lack of focus, the committee needs to be revitalized, reeducated, and have regular funding support.
What are the efforts of the local government units to ensure that the MPAs remain protected?
The LGU organized a Municipal Fisheries Law Enforcement Team (MFLET) to assist the Philippine National Police and the barangays in the implementation of MPA related laws, rules and regulations. The Municipal LGU also set aside funds for the management, protection, and sustainability of the MPAs.
Can you tell us about your efforts to protect whale sharks?
We are in the process of enacting the Coastal Resource Management Code of San Francisco and one of the policy options included in the legislation is to regulate the harvest of anchovies and planktons, prohibit the use of fine mesh nets, and the protection of the whale sharks.
What are your long-term plans for more MPAs in San Francisco?
We want to establish patches of MPAs instead of creating wide areas that may affect the navigational and fishing activities in the area. We also want to build a “barangay sized” MPA than a “city sized” one. We also want to employ a localization approach to creating MPAs instead of creating an alliance which was proven ineffective and inefficient these days. There is also a need to revitalize, reeducate, re-fund the MPA drivers and the whole community.