Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Road Trip to Mansalay

On the week of October 29, 2012, I took my Vulcan on a road trip from Manila to Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. I drove this route using Dad's pick-up a few month ago (May 2012) and determined that the road conditions were adequate for a "big bike". Apart from checking out Dad's farm and continuing my underwater survey of the corals fronting the farm, I suggested to Mayor Joel of Mansalay to establish a second marine sanctuary along the beachfront of Dad's farm, so that the depleted marine resources could recover and eventually provide a decent yield to the local fisherman. Quite by accident, I also came across former Mayor Papasin, who in fact established the first marine sanctuary in Mansalay around 2005, and discussed the same initiative with him. Thankfully, both gentlemen appreciated the benefits to the local community and agreed to support the second marine sanctuary.

When I was around 13 years old, I would tag along with Dad to Mansalay and, among other things, ride bareback on a horse (with no more than a few empty sacks of rice as a saddle and a makeshift nylon rope contraption as a bridle) and snorkel the white sand beach (known as Casabangan Beach) at Dad's farm. I recall the pristine and colorful condition of the corals just a few meters from shore and the abundance of fish everywhere I looked. There was a "resident" school of mature flying fish that, as a matter of course, would regularly (no fail) breach the surface of the water, back and forth and all around Casabangan Bay in full view of anyone who bothered to pause along the shore.

When I visited the farm in May 2012, it had been nearly 32 years since I set foot on the property. I snorkeled the white sand beach and I saw devastation. Dynamite fishing, poison fishing, muro-ami fishing*, among other destructive and unsustainable fishing practices, had nearly wiped out the corals. Fish is scarce. This tragedy at sea reminded me of a similar tragedy on land--at the farm itself. During my 30 plus years absence pursuing my education and career, Dad would mention the lawless state of affairs in Mansalay; particularly, how communist bandits, among other lawless elements, had forcibly taken over our farm and chopped down all the trees he had planted (narra, mahogany, teak, acacia, coconut, etc.) many years ago. Adding insult to injury, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) initiated a case against Dad for illegal logging--after (a) he did all the work to transform the farm (which was a barren and denuded property when my parents purchased it) into a thriving forest reserve at his and my mother's expense and (b) the government / military / police failed to help us secure our most basic right of peaceful ownership of property. You would think it doesn't get any shittier than this. Unfortunately, I have come across many cases in the Philippines with the same theme. Ever wonder why investments into the Philippines are relatively scarce compared to other emerging market countries all over the world?

During my subsequent visit this October 2012, Ka Pedring went out to fish for squids at night so that he could teach Freddy how to do it. Both Ka Pedring and Freddy are Dad's employees at the farm. They spent several hours at sea and caught two pieces of squid, each only a few inches long. Ka Pedring (47 years old) later informed me that when he was about 15 years old (also around 32 years ago), it was common to bring home seven (7) kilos of squid every time he went out to sea at night. Ka Pedring and I also went fishing one early morning for several hours. We caught one (1) galunggong about 5 inches long--not even enough to feed the belly of a small child.

This environmental catastrophe, which is unfortunately commonplace along coastal towns all over the Philippines, is screaming for help. It is now up to the local legislature (Sangguniang Bayan of Mansalay) to pass the ordinance for the second marine sanctuary in Mansalay, which is the next step to address (at least partially) this dire situation.

Not all is gloomy in Mansalay. Over 30 years ago, it used to take 5 to 6 hours by car to travel from Calapan to Mansalay. The same route takes 2 to 3 hours by car due to the mostly cemented roads. The road between Mansalay and San Jose (where there is an airport with regular flights to Manila) has recently been completed, which reduces the travel time by car on this road to less than 2 hours. The Mayor of Mansalay today, Joel Maliwanag, is young and dynamic. His heart is in the right place and Mansalay is fortunate to have him. Of course, there is the prospect of a second marine sanctuary in town that would help to conserve the priceless corals and to increase the yield of fish to the local fisherman.

Below is an illustration of the proposed marine protected area and a draft of the ordinance:

Republic of the Philippines
Province of Oriental Mindoro
Municipality of Mansalay
Office of the Sangguniang Bayan

Excerpts from the minutes of the regular session of the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Mansalay, held in its Session Hall on [date].


         Hon.                                         , Vice-Mayor and Presiding Officer
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan
         Hon.                                         , Member, Sangguniang Bayan

Absent: None.

Ordinance No.              Series of 2014

An ordinance establishing a No-Take Marine Protected Area (“MPA”)
in the Municipal Waters of Mansalay

WHEREAS based on underwater surveys of the area of the proposed MPA conducted since May 2012, the owner (“Manuel O. Gallego Jr.” or “Mangal” or “Land Owner”) of the land fronting the said area has observed the severe depletion and the extensive damage of the coral and marine resources due to the indiscriminate and unsustainable fishing practices in the area over the past thirty (30) years,

WHEREAS the proposed MPA is a known refuge for a diverse variety of fish and other marine resources (including the critically endangered sea turtle), which should be allowed to resuscitate and regenerate in a sustainable manner, so that said resources would have a fighting chance of survival for future generations,

WHEREAS Mangal has suggested to the Municipal Government of Mansalay to establish the proposed MPA in the Municipal Waters of Mansalay in front of Mangal’s property, which will complement Mangal’s nearly half-century of environmental conservation efforts to establish a forest reserve on its property (i.e., contiguous forest reserve on land and MPA on water), increase the fish biomass and improve the livelihood of the local fishermen in as little as three (3) to five (5) years, resuscitate the devastated corals over several decades and improve the chances of substantial investments and job creation in the tourism sector in Mansalay,

PURSUANT to Republic Act No. 8550 or the Philippines Fisheries Code of 1998 requiring 15% of coastal municipal waters to be protected within no-take marine protected areas or MPA’s, and the Philippine Marine Sanctuary Strategy of 2004 aiming to protect 10% of coral reef areas in no-take MPA’s by 2020,

BE IT ORDAINED by the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Mansalay, Province of Oriental Mindoro, That

SECTION I. TITLE. This ordinance shall be known as the Mangal Marine Protected Area Ordinance of 2014, in recognition of the lifelong persevering and tenacious environmental conservation efforts of Manuel O. Gallego Jr. in his beloved Mansalay.

SECTION II.  DEFINITION OF TERMS. As used in this ordinance, the following terms and phrases shall mean as follows:

1.            Mangal Marine Protected Area—a designated area in the Municipal Waters of Mansalay located at Barangay Don Pedro and/or Barangay Cabalwa, which has been characterized as having high marine biodiversity and productivity until it has been indiscriminately exploited by unsustainable fishing practices, and where fishing, fisheries activities and other marine resource extraction and exploitation are henceforth prohibited, and human access is likewise restricted—see Exhibit A.

2.            MFARMC—shall mean Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, which shall be comprised of four (4) members; namely, the Mayor of Mansalay, the Barangay Captain of Barangay Don Pedro, Barangay Captain of Barangay Cabalwa and the Land Owner or its authorized representative. The MFARMC shall meet at least twice a year to report the status of the Mangal MPA and to recommend reasonable measures to continually improve the marine biodiversity and productivity therein.

3.            Municipal Waters—include not only streams, lakes, inland bodies of water and tidal waters within the municipality which are not the subject of private ownership and not included within the national parks, brackish water fishponds leased by the government, and national fishery reserves, refuge and sanctuaries but also marine waters included between two lines drawn perpendicular to the general coastline from points where the boundary lines of the municipality touch the sea at low tide and a third line parallel with the general coastline including offshore islands and 15 kilometers from such coastline. Where two municipalities are so situated on opposite shores such that there is less than thirty (30) kilometers of marine waters between them, the third line shall be a line equidistant from the opposite shores of the respective municipalities.

SECTION III. BOUNDARIES OF THE MANGAL MPA. There shall be a Marine Protected Area or MPA in the Municipal Waters of Mansalay within the following geographic coordinates, which is illustrated in the attached Exhibit A (“Mangal Marine Protected Area”):

            From    Pt. 1                12°28'19.2867" N, 121°25'45.6354" E
            To        Pt. 2                 12°28'31.1664" N, 121°25'57.5095" E
            To        Pt. 3                 12°28'33.2444" N, 121°26'15.7014" E
            To        Pt. 4                 12°28'21.0317" N, 121°26'27.9327" E
            To        Pt. 5                 12°28'38.1070" N, 121°26'42.8828" E
            To        Pt. 6                 12°28'47.3413" N, 121°26'31.8880" E
            To        Pt. 7                 12°29'00.2141" N, 121°26'42.1444" E
            To        Pt. 8                 12°28'40.0846" N, 121°26'59.2128" E
            To        Pt. 9                 12°28'25.5055" N, 121°26'55.1865" E
            To        Pt.10                12°28'09.7660" N, 121°26'40.6132" E
            To        Pt. 11               12°28'04.2103" N, 121°26'27.6984" E
            To        Pt. 12               12°28'06.5163" N, 121°25'56.7665" E
            To        Pt. 1                 12°28'19.2867" N, 121°25'45.6354" E

Provided that, except for scientific, educational and tourism activities (including but not limited to, yacht docking/parking, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, parasailing, jet-skiing, kite-boarding, wind-surfing, fly-boarding and legitimate underwater hotel accommodations) which do not involve any resource extraction whatsoever (“Permitted Activities”), fishing activities, fisheries, other marine resource extraction and exploitation and other human activities, including but not limited to, any and all forms of line fishing, net fishing, spear fishing, fish traps, dropping anchor, loitering, meandering, littering and/or parking of fishing vessels and/or any form of vessels in the Mangal MPA are strictly prohibited; for the avoidance of doubt and for effective enforcement, the only vessels, boats, bangkas, and/or floating/underwater vessels/devices/structures allowed within the Mangal MPA are scuba diving boats, patrol vessels, patrol boats, patrol bangkas, patrol aircrafts and/or legitimate scientific, educational and tourism vessels, devices and/or structures authorized in writing by the Mayor and the Land Owner;

Provided further that, except for Land Owner, any other person or party may be allowed to conduct said Permitted Activities only if written permission is obtained from both the Mayor of Mansalay and Mangal;

SECTION IV. MANAGEMENT OF THE MANGAL MPA. The municipal government, in coordination with the MFARMC, shall be responsible for the management, protection, conservation and development of the Mangal MPA:

Provided that the MFARMC, in coordination with the municipal government, shall formulate a management plan for the operation of the Mangal MPA;

Provided further that the Land Owner and/or its representatives are hereby empowered to enforce this Ordinance and its rules and regulations;

SECTION V. PENALTY. Violators of this ordinance shall be penalized and prosecuted under Section 96 of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

SECTION VI. REPEALING CLAUSE. All previous ordinances, executive orders, rules and regulations or parts thereof which are inconsistent with this ordinance are hereby repealed and modified accordingly.

SECTION VII. SEPARABILITY CLAUSE. If, for any reason or reasons, any part or provision of this ordinance shall be held unconstitutional or invalid, other parts or provisions hereof which are not affected thereby shall continue to be in full force and in effect.

SECTION VIII. EFFECTIVITY CLAUSE. This ordinance shall take effect ten (10) days after a copy thereof is posted in a bulletin board at the entrance and in at least two (2) other conspicuous places of the municipal building and the ordinance has been published once in a local newspaper of general circulation in the municipality.


APPROVED this [date], 2014 at the Municipality of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro.

I HEREBY CERTIFY the correctness of the foregoing Ordinance.

ATTESTED:                 Secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan

Presiding Officer, Sangguniang Bayan

                        Kagawad                                                          Kagawad

                        Kagawad                                                          Kagawad

                        Kagawad                                                          Kagawad

                        Kagawad                                                          Kagawad

                        Kagawad                                                          Kagawad


                        Mayor           Date of Approval:                                        

*Uses an encircling net together with pounding devices. These devices usually comprise large stones fitted on ropes that are pounded into the coral reefs. The pounding devices are repeatedly and violently lowered into the area encircled by the net, literally smashing the coral in that area into small fragments in order to scare the fish out of their coral refuges. The "crushing" effect of the pounding process on the coral heads has been described as having longlasting and practically totally destructive effects.

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