Marine Park Rangers
The composite team of marine park rangers was conceptualised in 1995 when a multi-sectoral Presidential Task Force was established to safeguard Tubbataha by then President Fidel V. Ramos. This represented a shift in the national approach to natural resource management – a move towards decentralization and collaboration that was embraced by those involved in environmental conservation. This change enabled the current law enforcement arrangements in Tubbataha and was formalised by the Tubbataha Act of 2009.
The composite team of marine park rangers is made up of:
- The Philippine Navy
- The Philippine Coast Guard
- The Local Government Unit of Cagayancillo
- Tubbataha Management Office
When the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) was established in 2001, the law enforcement team developed guidelines for marine park rangers, with assistance from WWF-Philippines. Comprehensive training for Marine Park Rangers ensures each individual is familiar with law enforcement protocols before they are assigned to Tubbataha. Basic ecology and management objectives for TRNP are also a key part of the training course.
Comprehensive training is critical since marine park rangers come from different agencies with unique mandates, they have different training, skill sets, and levels of environmental awareness. Guidelines are periodically reviewed as circumstances change and new challenges emerge. Training unites rangers from different backgrounds and ensures that they can focus on the task at hand – protecting Tubbataha.
The Ranger Station
In the early years of law enforcement by the Presidential Task Force, the rangers were housed in a simple canvas tent. In 1996 a wooden structure was built but shifting sand soon rendered its foundations unstable. At present, the marine park rangers are housed in a styrofoam-reinforced concrete structure on a sandbar on Tubbatha’s North Atoll.
The rangers are stationed in TRNP on two-month rotations all year round and are equipped with two patrol boats, a utility boat, radar, radio communications, geo-positioning system (GPS) units, and basic research equipment
The Tubbataha Act
The Republic Act 10067, known as the TRNP Act, provides the legal and institutional framework for enforcement in the Tubbataha Reefs. The statute defines the authority of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) to impose sanctions against violators. Further details of RA 10067 are found in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) issued by the TPAMB in October 2010 and amended in 2012. The IRR provides details of the function and of the TPAMB Investigation Committee (TIC), the legal arm of the TPAMB.
The TRNP Act gives the TPAMB autonomy to formulate regulations. The TPAMB has subsequently issued more detailed regulations and guidelines, which were recently presented in an Administrative Order. This document provides details of the activities allowed in the Park, procedures for access in TRNP, and the penalties for non-compliance.