Strengthening Conservation Management Policies for Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (APPROVED PARTLY UNDER IA CULTURE BUDGET, PARTLY UNDER ITALIAN FUNDS EARMARKED FOR IA-196EAR4000.10.1)
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993.
Data gathered by Marine Park Rangers through radar showed that an average of 114 ships passed the proximity of the Park on a monthly basis. This increased the risk and vulnerability of the property to the potentially adverse impact of maritime activities, i.e. marine debris, alien invasive species, oil spill, etc. Special protection could be obtained through the establishment of the Sulu Sea or the waters around the Park as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to ensure the maintenance of its Outstanding Universal Value. A PSSA is an area that needs special protection through action by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) because of its significance for recognized ecological or socio-economic or scientific reasons and which may be vulnerable to damage by international maritime activities.
This project aimed to:
- produce a comprehensive plan detailing the application process for a PSSA status, identify the agencies involved and their role in the process, the timeframe, and gather preliminary data required by the IMO;
- secure legal opinion as to the jurisdictional authority over the Buffer Zone of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and formulate a Draft Management Plan for the Buffer Zone;
- develop a Comprehensive Tourism Management Plan for the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
- An action plan for the PSSA application process was prepared in 2013. In the same year, two grounding incidents involving a US warship and a Chinese fishing vessel highlighted the urgent need of protecting the Parc naturel du récif de Tubbataha against the risks posed by international shipping. In 2015, the Philippine Government submitted its application for PSSA designation to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO. Following the adoption by the Maritime Safety Committee of a new Area to be Avoided as an Associated Protective Measure, on 11 July 2017, the MEPC confirmed the final designation of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park as a PSSA. It is the first established in Asia.
- On 4 to 5 July 2013, an action planning workshop was held with the participation of Tubbataha Management Office staff, members of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, and partners to articulate its tourism goals and strategies.