Saturday, May 12, 2018

Annual Evaluation Report of the Mangal Marine Protected Area, May 10, 2018


One year has past since the start of enforcement at the Mangal Marine Protected Area (MMPA). This annual evaluation report is intended to provide concrete, constructive and actionable feedback to the relevant government agencies and officials (in particular, LGU of Mansalay, Barangay Don Pedro and BFAR MIMAROPA) in an effort to continually improve the enforcement at the MMPA and thus ensure its long-term sustainability and success by way of increasing the fish catch of local fisherfolks and restoring an attractive marine environment for tourists.

I.                    Marine Buoys

At the outset of enforcement, a total of 40 marine buoys were purchased by the LGU to delineate the boundaries of the MMPA and to establish several permanent anchors for Bantay Dagat bangkas. To date, marine buoys were used as follows:

# of Buoys
Lost/Stolen; Damaged
GPS coordinates of MMPA
5 lost/stolen; 1 damaged
In-between GPS coordinates
1 lost/stolen; 0 damaged
Permanent Anchor
0 lost/stolen; 0 damaged
Replacement of buoy
2 lost/stolen; 0 damaged
Total buoys deployed
8 total lost/stolen; 1 total damaged

In summary, a total of 12 marine buoys were deployed to date. A total of 9 buoys were lost, stolen or damaged and a total of 3 buoys currently remain deployed at the MMPA. The LGU still has 28 marine buoys in storage for future deployment.

Recommendation #1
Clearly, the high rate of loss of marine buoys and the corresponding loss of nylon ropes (which sink to the bottom of the sea when the said buoys are lost, stolen or damaged) are not sustainable. The solution to this problem is a combination of:
  1. "paskil" system or posting a wanted sign with a monetary reward for the return of the stolen buoy and the conviction of the individual or individuals who stole the buoy;
  2. using less expensive buoys (e.g., small bamboo raft with flag) that can be replaced inexpensively on a regular basis (say once a year before the typhoon season) using smaller diameter (less expensive) nylon ropes;
  3. periodic (say once a quarter) cleaning of the said nylon ropes to remove mollusks like oysters and the like that adhere and grow on the portion of the nylon rope attached to the buoy and closest to the surface of the water;
  4. daily inspection of buoys with the aid of binoculars and
  5. more diligent Bantay Dagat enforcement to minimize theft of buoys.
The above should be integrated into the routine of the Bantay Dagat team to minimize the loss, theft and/or damage to buoys and nylon ropes which are essential tools of the MMPA.

Depending on the depth of jackstones (anchor of marine buoys) deployed at the GPS coordinates of the MMPA, Mangal Estate personnel shall attempt to recover and/or reinstall nylon ropes (by way of scuba diving) to reactivate lost marine buoys.

II.                  Bantay Dagat Staffing and Guard Posts

At the outset of enforcement, the LGU committed to 6 LGU Bantay Dagat personnel (alongside 2 Mangal Bantay Dagat personnel) and corresponding guard posts at appropriate locations along the coast of the MMPA as follows:

Guard Post Location
Day Shift (6 am to 6 pm)
Night Shift (6 pm to 6 am)
Sukbong Kugon
1 LGU Bantay Dagat
2 LGU Bantay Dagat
1 LGU Bantay Dagat
2 LGU Bantay Dagat
1 Mangal Bantay Dagat
1 Mangal Bantay Dagat
Total Staffing
2 LGU; 1 Mangal
4 LGU; 1 Mangal

To date, there is still no guard post in Lalawigan. Hence, the actual placement of Bantay Dagat personnel today is as follows, which is NOT according to PLAN and results in a “blind area” in Lalawigan:

Guard Post Location
Day Shift (6 am to 6 pm)
Night Shift (6 pm to 6 am)
Sukbong Kugon
2 LGU Bantay Dagat
2 LGU Bantay Dagat
0 LGU Bantay Dagat
0 LGU Bantay Dagat
1 LGU; 1 Mangal
1 LGU; 1 Mangal
Total Staffing
3 LGU; 1 Mangal
3 LGU; 1 Mangal

The absence of a guard post in Lalawigan and the corresponding absence of LGU Bantay Dagat personnel in Lalawigan have resulted in the lack of Bantay Dagat coverage and enforcement in the Lalawigan area of the MMPA, which is a favorite area of poachers, particularly spear fishermen at night and basnigs that insist on fishing near the boundaries of the MMPA. This also explains the frequent passage of motorized bangkas close to the shore fronting the Lalawigan area, which is not permitted under the MMPA Ordinance. In other words, many small motorized bangkas pass through the MMPA very close to the shoreline as if the MMPA Ordinance did not exist.

[insert picture of Benazir’s carcass]

Because of this disregard for the MMPA Ordinance, Kapitan Fabila recently (April 30, 2018) buried a carcass of a mature green sea turtle (an endangered species) recovered in the Lalawigan area, about 1 meter long and weighing 120 kilograms. According to Kapitan Fabila, the fatality appears to have been caused by propeller strikes at the neck of the sea turtle, which could have been prevented if the “no entry and no passage of motorized bangkas in the MMPA” rule is being enforced by the Bantay Dagat team.

Recommendation #2
Complete the guard post in Lalawigan and adhere to the planned and committed placement of LGU Bantay Dagat personnel at Sukbong Kugon and Lalawigan. In this regard, Mangal has offered to provide the materials (i.e., bamboo, cogon, nylon string, nails) for Bantay Dagat personnel to install the guard post in Lalawigan, which was the same arrangement for the guard post already installed in Sukbong Kugon.

In the meantime, motorized bangkas passing through the MMPA should be actively apprehended (at this time—even when the sea is particularly calm—at least 5 apprehensions per 24 hours are very likely) until such time that local fisherfolks spread the word that the Bantay Dagat team is serious about enforcing this provision in the MMPA Ordinance.

Notwithstanding the temporary absence of a guard post in Lalawigan, the LGU Bantay Dagat personnel posted in Sukbong Kugon is the next line of enforcement with respect to motorized bangkas passing through the MMPA and should actively apprehend said violators. There is no excuse for slacking off in Sukbong Kugon.

Mangal has also instructed its Bantay Dagat personnel to alternate their posts between Casabangan and Lalawigan, even in the temporary absence of a guard post in Lalawigan.

Finally, a flyer illustrating the boundaries and perimeter of the MMPA (which may also be explained simply as 500 meters away from the shoreline) should be given to the owner/operator of the apprehended motorized bangka, so that even in the temporary absence of marine buoys (which were lost, stolen or damaged, and will be reactivated in the future), repeat violators cannot feign ignorance of the law—even though the ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating the law.

III.                High Turnover of LGU Bantay Dagat Personnel

There was a high turnover of LGU Bantay Dagat personnel during the first year of enforcement at the MMPA due mainly to the delay in payment of their salaries. Although the LGU has given repeated assurances that this problem will be resolved starting this year (2018), the delay in payment of LGU Bantay Dagat personnel salaries persists to this day.

As of this writing, the following illustrates the delay in payment of salaries of LGU Bantay Dagat personnel:

LGU Bantay Dagat Personnel
Payment as of May 10, 2018
Delay in Payment
Bong Bong Mijares
Paid up to Dec 31, 2017; no payment to date
4 months
Pedring Faidalan
Paid up to Dec 31, 2017; no payment to date
4 months
Antonino Galicia
Paid up to Dec 31, 2017; no payment to date
4 months
Pepito Ledesma
Started Feb 2018; no payment to date
3 months
Brian Dela Cruz
Started Mar 2018; no payment to date
2 months
Angelito Demora
Worked Jan to Mar 2018; no payment to date
4 months

Recommendation #3
The persistence of this problem of delayed payment of salaries to LGU Bantay Dagat personnel, which deprives these individuals and their families their daily means of sustenance, is the singlemost factor in ensuring the failure of enforcement at the MMPA (e.g., slacking off at work due to low morale due to delayed payment of salary, working elsewhere while falsely reporting work days/nights at the MMPA, catching instead of protecting the fish in the MMPA, etc.) and must be definitively resolved by the LGU soonest.

IV.               Pending Commitments of LGU

Around August 2017, during a meeting with the MMPA Bantay Dagat team, including Pastor Jemale Fajutnao (LGU MA), Cocoy Generoso (LGU PIO), Don Pedro Barangay Captain Allan Fabila, Don Pedro Barangay Kagawad Porek Tolentino and Manuel Gallego, the Bantay Dagat personnel, who had then been enforcing the MMPA Ordinance for several months, requested some essential support/tools from the LGU to be able to perform their basic functions as enforcers. To wit:
  • A monthly gasoline budget of P500 for bangka fuel
  • Rechargeable flashlights (relatively lower life-cycle cost compared to regularly replacing non-rechargeable batteries)
  • An additional motorized bangka
On behalf of the LGU, Pastor Fajutnao acceded to the above requests. However, the LGU has only partially fulfilled the monthly gasoline budget (Item 1 above) and has yet to provide flashlights (Item 2 above) and the additional motorized bangka (Item 3 above).

Recommendation  #4
Kindly fulfill LGU commitments to the MMPA Bantay Dagat team.

V.                 Daily Accomplishment Report Form

Mangal developed a Daily Accomplishment Report Form specifically for Bantay Dagat personnel to serve two purposes (and minimize the duplication of paperwork and red-tape):
  1. as the Daily Accomplishment Report Form submitted together with the Daily Time Record or DTR to the LGU Accounting Department for payroll purposes and
  2. as a log to be kept on file for historical reference and performance tracking / trending / evaluation of MMPA enforcement.
Mangal is particularly interested (and the LGU should likewise be interested) in the 2nd above purpose for tracking, trending and evaluating the performance of MMPA enforcement over the course of time. For example, a Daily Accomplishment Report Form, properly filled by each Bantay Dagat personnel over the course of several years, can show an increase or decline of a particular violation in the MMPA over the period. It can also show spikes of a particular violation over the course of time. These trends can then be reviewed periodically by the Bantay Dagat team, particularly if the trend is headed in the wrong direction, to determine if enforcement methods need to be altered or improved.

Partly due to the high turnover of LGU Bantay Dagat personnel and possibly lack of training/briefing, the weekly submission of a completed Daily Accomplishment Report Form by each LGU Bantay Dagat personnel to the Barangay Office of Don Pedro (care of Kagawad Porek Tolentino), which is supposed to be the same submission to the LGU Accounting Department (hence there should be no duplication of paperwork other than a photocopy), is not being followed.

Recommendation #5
Each LGU Bantay Dagat personnel should submit a copy of their Daily Accomplishment Report Form to Porek Tolentino every week.

VI.               Basnigs in Blatant Violation of Fisheries Code

Although beyond the enforcement capacity of the MMPA Bantay Dagat team (with very limited resources to barely patrol the area of the MMPA), there are still the occasional basnigs that insist on fishing very close to shore. For example, on the night of May 7, 2018, just beyond the 500 meter boundary of the MMPA fronting Lalawigan was a basnig in full operations—probably depleting the meager gains of fish biomass resulting from the Bantay Dagat enforcement of the MMPA Ordinance. On the same night (May 7, 2018), Kapitan Fabila called the PNP to inform them of this violation and he was informed by the PNP that they are taking note of this violation on satellite. Based on subsequent informal reports to Kapitan Fabila and Mayor Maliwanag, on the following day (May 8, 2018), two violating basnigs, including the basnig just beyond the 500 meter boundary of the MMPA fronting Lalawigan on the night of May 7, 2018, were apprehended and fined a total of P250,000.

The above scenario is a good example of coordination among the MMPA Bantay Dagat team, Barangay Don Pedro and the PNP of Mansalay that resulted in the apprehension and fining of commercial fishing vessels fishing within Municipal Waters.

Recommendation #6
The above scenario should be repeated as often as necessary but only when there is a basnig that is clearly fishing within Municipal Waters—and only then should it be reported to the PNP of Mansalay. No false alarms allowed.

If the basnig is close enough to the boundaries of the MMPA, Bantay Dagat personnel (assuming Bantay Dagat bangka has fuel) should attempt to go directly to the violating basnig and inform the kapitan of the violation, while taking note of the details of the basnig (such as the name of the owner, the name of the kapitan, the name of the basnig and the like). This information will help the authorities (PNP and BFAR) follow-through on the apprehension of the violating commercial fishing vessel.

VII.             Less Blatant Violation of the Fisheries Code

At this time of year, at least 15 to 20 basnigs can be easily seen at a distance along the shoreline fronting Sukbong Kugon and Lalawigan every night. Admittedly, this is an improvement from the past, where basnigs are typically much closer to shore. That said, these basnigs today still appear to be within 10 kilometers from the shoreline of Mansalay, which is still a violation of the Fisheries Code.

Recommendation #7
Based on the scenario in Section VI above, the Regional BFAR (MIMAROPA) appears to have a satellite tracking system for registered commercial fishing vessels to determine on a daily basis if any such vessels are fishing within Municipal Waters. If so, this is a powerful enforcement tool that must be exploited by the LGU and the MMPA Bantay Dagat team to the fullest extent.

Mangal will attempt to coordinate with the Regional BFAR to secure the daily GPS coordinates of all commercial fishing vessels operating off the coast of Mansalay, and determine how best to use this information to more effectively enforce the Fisheries Code provision that prohibits fishing of commercial fishing vessels within Municipal Waters.

VIII.           Turtle Boil in Del Mundo

Pastor Ladrera recently reported the hatching and release of approximately 30 LEATHERBACK sea turtle hatchlings in Barangay Del Mundo. This is a big deal regardless of the sea turtle species—most of which are endangered species. It’s an even bigger deal given the LEATHERBACK species, which is sighted less often in Philippine waters.

This recent success was due to Pastor Ladrera relocating the buried eggs to a secure location, allowing them to mature into hatchlings instead of being eaten by dogs or people. Kudos to Pastor Ladrera!

A similar nest of sea turtle eggs was identified and secured in Casabangan (inside the MMPA) in September 6, 2017. Unfortunately, the eggs did not hatch. After investigating the nest well after the 60 day incubation period (the nest contained over 80 rotten eggs), we concluded that the nest was located too close to the waterline. The surge of sea water into the nest apparently ruined the eggs.

Recommendation #8
Going forward, every sea turtle egg nest discovered in Mansalay (particularly within the MMPA) should immediately be transferred to a location beyond the reach of water and secured to prevent any form of predation from animals or human beings. Based on Pastor Ladrera’s experience, the depth of the new relocated nest should approximate the depth of the original nest and the sand used to fill the new relocated nest should be the sand from the original nest. The idea is to include whatever biological fluids the mother turtle left on the sand of the original nest. Hopefully, this will increase the chances of survival of the eggs and the hatchlings.

Jun Generoso (LGU Tourism Officer) also suggested that the LGU fund a one or two day field trip of a few designated LGU personnel to the Bataan Pawikan Conservation Center in Morong, Bataan to learn the techniques of increasing the survival rate of hatchlings.

On a Positive Note

The foregoing observations and recommendations may appear overly-critical but in fact signify the tremendous progress that the LGU, Barangay Don Pedro and the MMPA Bantay Dagat team (past and present personnel) have made in terms of enforcing the MMPA Ordinance; otherwise, the preparation of this annual evaluation report would not even be worth the trouble.

It is clear that the groundwork has been established and enforcement at the MMPA is in earnest. There is a general consensus among the stakeholders that the local community is complying with the MMPA Ordinance, with the exception of some “pasaway.” For example, the owners/operators of motorized bangkas that persist in passing through the MMPA, who need to be apprehended and fined as many times as necessary to compel them to comply with the law.

The above recommendations themselves are not particularly cumbersome or difficult. They are actionable and well within the capacity of the stakeholders, requiring only diligence, dogged persistence and some funding. The challenge over the next year is to bring the enforcement of the MMPA to the next level, so that our local fisherfolks will have more fish to eat and our marine environment will recover its lustre to attract tourism investments and create more jobs and livelihood in Mansalay.

This Annual Evaluation Report of the Mangal Marine Protected Area was prepared by Manuel Gallego and submitted to the following: Office of the Mayor, Municipal Government of Mansalay; Office of the Barangay Captain, Barangay Don Pedro; Office of the Regional Director, BFAR MIMAROPA.

This is a link to a short video showing highlights of four (4) recent dives in Casabangan (May 2018). Compared to my previous dives in the same areas of Casabangan, the recovery of fish biomass and benthic cover is barely palpable as a result of the first year of enforcement at the MMPA. At the very least, conditions do not appear to be any worse than before.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Need I say more to evoke that mouth watering foretaste of crackling crispy skin and tender succulent meat held by a thin strip of fully rendered fat. It's Roasted Suckling Pig, Spanish-style--also known as Cochinillo Asado, described in a Spanish recipe blog as follows:

"You’ll find this dish served all over Spain, but it is typically Castilian. Segovia, famous for its Roman aqueduct, is also well known for its wonderful cochinillos, or “suckling pigs,” which many local establishments specialize in roasting to perfection. Throughout Castile, most cities and even small villages also have restaurants that serve cochinillos to the delight of residents and tourists alike. One of my favorite places to go for this delicacy in Madrid is Restaurante Botín, whose owner is a true master of this roasting art."

Just a day before the above picture of the finished product was taken . . .

Our little piggy in a sack just before slaughter. His live weight was about 5 kilos. He's a native pig, so he is no longer "suckling" at this weight and has already been weaned from his mother's milk. Caution! These native pigs bite.

Just after the slaughter.

Skin off, hair shaved and cleaned all over.

Split down the middle . . . because (a) it's my 1st attempt at cochinillo and I didn't want to cook the whole piglet all at once and (b) my electric oven could only accommodate half of the piglet.

Skin side down at first . . .

. . . then skin side up afterwards until temperature is set higher to crisp the skin!

Folks, this was NOT a walk in the park! My first attempt was a catastrophic failure. Hardly got any crisp on the skin. My second attempt was much better, achieving crispy skin on about 50% of the surface area. Still a long way to go to perfection but we are well on our way . . . I'm going to get it right on my next attempt.

In the meantime, I'm building an earth oven (using clay from the termite mounds all over the farm) to ensure consistent conchinillo crispy skin 100% of the time!

brick floor and cob (clay and sand mixture) layout

This concludes my second P to P (pasture to plate) rendition at Rancho Caridad. Cochinillo! Muy bien!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Scuba Diving in Maldives

Selina and I recently visited the Maldives and we're glad we decided to do it by scuba diving on a liveaboard. It all started with a plan to scuba dive at Tubbataha Reef off the coast of Palawan--in our own backyard so to speak. Then we found out how expensive the Tubbataha Reef liveaboard packages have become. A comparable Maldives liveaboard package (about one-third across the world from the Philippines in the middle of the Indian Ocean . . . indeed, in the middle of nowhere) costs less than a Tubbataha Reef liveaboard package--inclusive of the roundtrip airfare from the Philippines to Maldives!

By most accounts, the quality of dives in the Maldives is comparable to (some say even better than) those in Tubbataha. So, the Maldives appeared to offer better "value for money" than Tubbataha. And because Tubbataha is just around the corner, we decided to save that liveaboard adventure to a later date.

We were fortunate to arrive in the Maldives in the afternoon. This afforded us a birds eye view of the atolls before the plane landed. It reminded me of Apo Reef, about 50 kilometers west of Occidental Mindoro, except that the Maldives was Apo Reef multiplied 100 times. It's not an archipelago, which connotes a group of island. It's an amalgamation of atolls and sandbars, which barely breach the surface of the Indian Ocean.

An amalgamation of atolls and sandbars barely breaching the surface of the Indian Ocean

With a population of about half a million people (nearly one-third of which is concentrated on Male, the capital of Maldives) and spread over a vast geographical area, I surmised the condition of the marine environment below the surface should still be OK--at least better than anything I have observed in all of my dives in the Philippines to date. Long story short, I surmised correctly! Click on the video link at the end of this blog.

Emperor Leo, our roving home for the week in the Maldives
Before boarding Emperor Leo
This is the dhoni or dive boat of Emperor Leo. It follows Emperor Leo wherever it goes. It is tethered to Emperor Leo when anchored. This is where all our scuba gear is placed and our tanks our filled (air and nitrox). It's got two identical compressors and a nitrox station on board. It transports the entire diving group to specific dive spots from where Emperor Leo is anchored. Most importantly, it picks up the divers after we have surfaced.
A room with a view!
Attention to detail!
Emperor Leo, the dhoni and a typical Maldive resort in the background
Living and dining area . . . fully air-conditioned 24/7
Also serves as the dive briefing room . . . Andrea (Swiss), boat manager and dive master, together with the other dive masters on Emperor Leo, Rico (Maldivian), Victor (Ukranian) and Megan (Canadian)
Upper deck of Emperor Leo with Selina
Selina at Sunrise

With Andrea

With Rico

With Manda, my dive buddy

Michael, a real good sport!

Dinner on an island

Observe the Maldivian God above the setting sun looking down

Our area of coverage was in the middle section of the Maldives. We dove everyday from April 15 (Sunday) to April 20 (Friday), 3 dives a day except on the last day (2 dives only to allow a gap of 24 hours before our return flight). That's a total of 17 terrific dives!

The rightmost column lists our 17 dive locations