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Eco-reef installation launched at El Nido
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: *
Date: 2006-05-21
In its claim to be the country’s most eco-friendly resort, El Nido Resorts in Palawan recently held an eco-reef installation at Tres Marias, a former coral reef and dive site which has been badly damaged by dynamite and other forms of illegal fishing near Miniloc Island.

"The beauty of the Philippines is second to none. It’s very fragile," observes Duane Silverstein, Seacology executive director. Dynamite fishing and other illegal methods have banged up Palawan’s coral reef, he added.

The world’s first artificial reef designed to rehabilitate damaged corals, Eco-Reefs are made of ceramic stoneware that is ideal for the settlement of corals and other invertebrates. They are white ceramic modules shaped like a stag horn coral about the size of small coffee tables. Anchored on reef rubbles, these structures attract fishes and tiny poyps, the creatures that actually create coral reefs.

By all means, reef regeneration is not a quick thing. In the past, other environmental NGOs have used structures made out of tires as artificial reefs. Some groups have even parked wrecked cars and parts of ships to facilitate coral restoration.

With support from Seacology, a US-based non-stock non-profit organization, through a $ 20,000 grant to El Nido Foundation, Inc., El Nido was the recipient of 626 pieces of Eco-Reef modules which were installed at Tres Marias. El Nido is only the second site in the world to install these state-of-the-art ceramic reef models, the first being Bunaken National Park in Indonesia. It is hope that the installation in Tres Marias, the municipality, particularly the communities’ initiative to manage and conserve El Nido’s coastal resources, particularly through setting aside of community-managed marine areas or "no-take" zones in the marine areas of El Nido. The municipality of El Nido mobilized support for a coral reef restoration and education program which will hopefully help enhance its fishery stock and at the same time add value to its developing tourism industry.

The Coral Eco-Reef restoration project has an educational component which seeks not only to help the communities but goes one-step further through raising the awareness of the communities around, specifically the youth, on the importance of coral reefs in sustaining fish biomass in the area. "With the integration of an education component, the possibility that the benefits of protecting the area’s biodiversity are directly shared by the community, is great," adds Eduardo Lim, president of Ten Knots Development Corporation, developers of El Nido Resorts in Palawan.

Seacology is one of the world’s premier non-profit environmental organizations with the sole purpose of preserving the highly endangered biodiversity of islands throughout the world. In the Philippines, the organization has worked closely with several islanders and has enjoyed strong local support and has consequently led to long–term benefits.

Seacology has undertaken several projects as early as December 2000 with its Samar Island Biodiversity Project. An Island Nature Park was established in the area comprising 857,000 acre of protected area with Seacology underwriting an all-volunteer surgical mission to Samar. A total of 72 major surgeries and 50 consultations were performed as a way of thanking Samar Islanders for setting aside a large area of their island for the Samar Island Nature Park.

In Cebu Island, the coastal fishing community of Saavedra worked together with a local NGO to create a 20-acre marine sanctuary. The Saavedra Fisherman’s Association has guarded this sanctuary from fishing activities and the area encompassing the sanctuary is rated as one of Cebu’s top diving destinations. Seacology, in cooperation with the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF) help build a guardhouse that served as the venue for the association’s meetings and a receiving area for visitors from neighboring marine protected area associations. Two years ago, the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) and USAID cited the Saavedra Fish Sanctuary as a destination in the Philippines where sound and replicable resource management and local governance is a model for study in coastal resource management.

Another project is the enforcement of three existing marine sanctuaries and support for sustainable alternative livelihoods in Jandayan Island. The island is reportedly one of the poorest in the region due to its depleted marine resources. Seacology provided guardhouses, motorboats and radio equipment to help the island communities which has provided mobility to the fish wardens manning the guardhouses. Marker bouys were also installed to better outline the marine protected areas.

The work of the organization in El Nido, Palawan has been started as early as 2003. In response to the area’s declining fish population and degraded coral reef, ten El Nido villages have established a no take zone totaling approximately 2,000 acres. Working with the El Nido Foundation, Seacology provided Eco-Reef modules to facilitate reef restorations. Installations have been undertaken on a scheduled basis. It is expected that the eco-reef installation would jump-start the community’s involvement in various efforts to conserve El Nido’s precious coastal and marine resources, which is the main livelihood and food source of at least seventy percent of El Nido’s populace.

El Nido is considered a showcase of Palawan’s geology and diverse wildlife. Its majestic limestone cliffs are estimated to be 250 million years old. They stand guard over clear waters with innumerable species of tropical fishes and corals. Three species of endangered sea turtles are found in this area. El Nido’s forests are host to more than 100 species of birds, a large number of which are endemic to Palawan. Being one of the most important sites of biological diversity in the country, the Philippine government has elevated the status of El Nido from a marine reserve to a protected area.

The El Nido Resorts are built on separate islands assuring minimal impact on the environment, as well as privacy for its guests. Miniloc Island Resort is situated in a cove with a backdrop of sheer limestone cliffs. Lagen Island Resort on the other hand, is set in a lush forest and provides a magnificent view of the El Nido sunset.

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