ROUGH CUTS| How’s Ordinance No. 0375?

WITH the passing of the first district councilor Leonardo Avila III shorty before Christmas, we are reminded of one of the worthiest ordinances that were crafted by the City Council of Davao that have something to do with environment and ecological protection in this part of the country. And we are referring to City Ordinance No. 0375, Series of 2007 otherwise known as the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Ordinance.

     One of the areas identified in the ordinance as subject to protection is some 37 hectares with boundaries starting from the shoreline and extending to some 300 meters seawards to the municipal waters surrounding Punta Dumalag in Barangay Matina Aplaya. And we would say that that part of Davao City’s municipal waters is being given some kind of priority attention in the MPA because some 250 meters stretch of its beach has been discovered as the nesting site of the endangered hawksbill turtles.

     Also, the 37-hectare MPA is home to critical habitats such as mangroves, sea grasses and coral reefs.

     Moreover, the area is so closed to the city proper that it can be considered very significant since no one would ever have thought that a shoreline already invaded by informal settlers and has become a haven of all garbage detrimental to environment could still help turtle eggs hatched and nurture the hatchlings until they are ready to be released to the sea. The lush vegetation along the shoreline is also the favorite convergence of several avian species. With the area put under MPA the local government  hopes to increase fishery production, enhance eco-tourism, create a new area for research and other scientific studies.

     Other than these, the barangay government of Matina Aplaya and the residents of Punta Dumalag are quick to respond to the need to make the MPA operational in their area. Thus, shortly before the end of 2007, the Barangay, with technical support from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Philippine Environmental Governance Project (EcoGov) started working on a 5-year Marine Protected Area Management Plan of Punta Dumalag.

     We know that the late councilor Avila was largely the cog of the planning activities. As the chair of the Council Committee on Environment during that time, the first district alderman did a lot of legwork in ensuring the participation of the critical sectors in crafting the plan. In fact, we were one of those who attended a live-in planning session at one of the resorts also located in Matina Aplaya representing the Aboitiz-owned Davao Light and Power Co. which has an existing Foreshore Lease Agreement (FLA) in Punta Dumalag. It is in the Davao Light FLA that the 250 meter stretch of white sand that the nesting site of the hawksbill turtle is located.

     The 5-Year Management Development Plan is complete with Vision and Mission Statements; goals and objectives. It has programs that include administrative and ecological management. It also identifies areas where immediate government action is needed. These are mangrove rehabilitation, coral reef protection and rehabilitation, turtle nesting site protection and rehabilitation, and other related programs.

     The plan also recognizes that with the operationalization of the MPA there are residents and other stakeholders who stand to be adversely affected. The bulk of these stakeholders are the fisher folks. Thus, the plan also provides for the establishment of sustainable alternative livelihood program.

     And one of the most keenly watched program under the plan is the development of the area into an eco-tourism destination. How this particular program has evolved insofar as what is conceived in the plan, for now we do not have any idea. But what we are aware of is the nurturing of an 8-hectare Aboitiz property along the Punta Dumalag shoreline adjoining the Davao Light FLA into what is now a Cleanergy Park. It is a private corporate initiative but it is open to the public for recreational visit as well as for academics for study purposes, subject f course to visit protocols. But again, how this private endeavor fits into the local government crafted management plan, we still have to find out.

     The same plan also provides for a ways and means program in order to realize all the projects and activities that are lined up to be undertaken. This will also ensure that the implementation of the MPA ordinance will succeed and that it will not just be another piece of paper that will be added to the City Council documents files and gather dust in the cabinets.

     The barangay and the City government, through its respective councils, shall allocate adequate amount to fund the MPA operation. Necessarily, the local government is to provide warm bodies to undertake the various programs and projects recommended in the MPA management plan.

     Another important component in the plan is an Information Education Communication (IEC) program. This is to ensure that the MPA and the various activities done to make it successful  get into the consciousness of every Davaoeño as well as other people who may have some interest in the area.

     We would say that the 5-year management plan is one piece of work very intelligently and comprehensively done. If for now this has remained in paper only, then it would be a monumental waste of time, effort, brains and money.

     Now, whatever has happened to the plan painstakingly molded more than eight years ago,  we hope to hear from our city and barangay Matina Aplaya executives.  And they have to be responsive to this call if only to honor the effort of the late green advocate councilor Leonardo Avila III.

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