As requested by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), the State Party has submitted the proceedings and report on the “National Workshop on the Management of the Tubbataha Reefs and the Greater Sulu Sea”, which took place in December 2006, in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.The most important outcomes of the conference are the following:
a) The Tubbataha Declaration of Support by participating agencies, expressing their commitment, responsibilities and contributions towards the effective conservation of the TRNP; and
b) Three action plans drawn out of three simultaneous workshops on the following issues:
(i) Improving law enforcement coordination and effectiveness
(ii) Addressing risks from energy exploration and potential oil spills
(iii) PSSA (Particularly Sensitive Sea Area) designation for the Sulu Sea
The action plans identify major activities, outcomes, lead agencies, time frames, resources needed and potential funding sources.
Other issues discussed at the conference included the following:
c) Status of the TRNMP Bill
At the time of the Conference, the Bill was pending in both Chambers of Congress. Important provisions of the Bill were changed during a second reading in November 2006, without the concurrence of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board. There are concerns that the new Bill, known as House Bill No. 3772 (HB3772), might undermine the principles and the spirit of the original draft bill, especially concerning management.
d) Law enforcement
Problems concerning the enforcement of fishery and protected area laws were identified in two studies conducted by the Environmental Legal Action Centre (ELAC), including:
(i) Continuing weakness of law enforcement efforts;
(ii) Inadequate knowledge of law enforcement personnel about the enforcement process;
(iii) Unclear or undefined prosecution strategies;
(iv) Delays in the prosecution of cases;
(v) Inadequacy of sanctions and penalties; and
(vi) Filing of harassment suits or countersuits against law enforcers.
Better education and training of law enforcement and other personnel is a priority. It should be noted that due to lack of information, environmental laws are not taken seriously, especially by the fishers. Most of the time the fines imposed are small and inadequate. Furthermore, international poachers are protected by their consulates and not prosecuted. Tubbataha Management is working with the judiciary to solve these issues.
e) Other issues and concerns in protecting TRNMP
(i) Lack of long term financial security for the park;
(ii) Need for capacity building among marine park rangers who are recruited from the Philippine Navy and replaced on a regular basis, due to the remoteness and isolation of the site;
(iii) The use and values of the status of PSSA for the TRNMP and Greater Sulu Sea;
(iv) Oil exploration in the Sulu Sea. The Department of Energy and its private contractors should compensate communities for all damages from oil exploration and inform the public about their contingency plans on oil spill and other disasters.
According to the Presidential Proclamation 1126 issued on 23 August 2006, Tubbataha Reef Marine Park has been extended to include Jessie Beazley Reef, as recommended by the World Heritage Committee (Decision 28 COM 15B.18). It is now officially named Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and comprises 96,828 ha. IUCN and World Heritage Centre note that this nearly threefold increase in size of the original site (33,200 ha) is very positive and represents a significant boundary modification requiring a re-nomination by the State Party according to paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines. Additional information received by IUCN from different sources indicates continuing significant threats to the property by illegal international fishing and poaching activities. IUCN notes with concern indications of weak enforcement of the existing applicable law in these cases.
Damaging mining operations under the government’s Mining Revitalization Programme have been reported as negatively impacting the property. The State Party should inform the World Heritage Centre about any existing or proposed mining within the property and any associated impact.
IUCN and World Heritage Centre appreciate the outcomes of the National Workshop. The State Party should keep the World Heritage Centre informed on the state of implementation of action plans elaborated during the workshops.