The twin atolls of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the middle of Sulu Sea once fell victim of human transgressions. The precious wealth it once contained were looted and the reefs were left almost ruined by fishers from nearby islands.
Local environmentalists and dive enthusiasts fought for its protection and lobbied Tubbataha’s declaration as a marine protected area. Since its declaration as Philippines’ first national marine park on 11 August 1988, the protection afforded to the reefs has reclaimed Tubbataha’s unique and outstanding natural beauty.
After 26 years of persistent protection, the Tubbataha Reefs has become an inspiration to other marine protected areas in the country. It continues to deliver services vital for the survival of millions of Filipinos, whose lives depend on the bounty of the waters of the Sulu Sea.
Tubbataha Reefs remains the best-managed marine protected area in the country and was dubbed by local marine experts as a ‘reference oceanic reef’, a model of what a healthy offshore reef ecosystem should be. These attributes will persist for as long as we faithfully fulfill our duties as stewards of these vast resources – unwavering, unfaltering.
On 11 August 2013, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) celebrated 25 years of marine conservation for Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. With support from Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc., several events took place to celebrate the conservation of Tubbataha Reefs and to inspire the public to support the continued protection of Tubbataha, our common heritage:
Tubbataha 25: Photo Exhibit
The celebration began with the opening of a photo exhibition about Tubbataha, held on 5 August at Robinsons Place, Palawan. Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez, both World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) – Philippines National Ambassadors, shared their personal experiences of Tubbataha and encouraged the public to continue the protection of what they call “the pride of Palawenos”. The exhibition features 32 winning images of Tubbataha from the photographic contest held in December 2012. The exhibition runs until 12 August.
Ocean Art Trash Competition
A 3D mixed media art competition called “Ocean Trash Art” took place from 3 to 9 August 2013.
The artwork called “Earth Without Mother” by Artistiko topped the other eight entries and bagged
the PhP20, 000.00 cash prize. Two artworks from the Palawan National School, the “Pawikan” and “Kabayong-Dagat” won the second and third place, and took home PhP15,000 and PhP10,000 respectively.
The competition aimed to bring public attention to the proliferation of marine debris and its devastating effects on the ocean, especially on our dwindling wildlife population.
Riding the waves of change: Youth Congress
On 11 August, the youth leaders from all over Palawan and the secondary school students in Puerto Princesa City gathered in a youth congress held at the Cory Aquino Park Square in the Capitol Grounds.
The youth congress, titled “Riding the Waves of Change”, aimed to inspire young people to take action to protect the marine environment by sharing the Tubbataha conservation story and to bring awareness and encourage debate over marine environmental issues.
Tubbataha Management Office WWF-Philippines President Lory Tan and ABS-CBN reporter Atom Araullo gave talks on the current state of our oceans and the role of the youth ocean conservation, respectively. Mr. Araullo also focused on the outstanding natural value of Tubbataha. Mr. Paolo Gavino, Communications Manager of the Shell Philippines Exploration, delivered a keynote speech.
Tubbataha 25: A Tribute
A tribute night followed the youth congress at the same venue to celebrate the dedication and commitment of the people who pioneered the cause of Tubbataha and those who safeguard it for us today. Eight individuals and four agencies were awarded a plaque of appreciation by the TPAMB Co-Chairs Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, represented by First District Congressman Franz Josep George Alvarez, and the Regional Executive Director Edgardo Galeon of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region IV-B.
Another highlight of the night was the expression of support from the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprises Authority Zone (TIEZA), a government corporation whose mandate is to develop, manage, and supervise tourism infrastructure projects in the country. Mr. Mark Lapid, TIEZA’s Chief Operating Officer awarded a PhP40 million peso grant for the construction of a new Ranger Station in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
Tubbataha was declared as a national marine park on 11 August 1988 and this year marks the 25th year of its establishment by President Corazon Aquino. In 2012, Tubbataha was ranked among the world’s best dive sites by CNN’s travel website and was also recognized by international marine scientists as a model for conservation in the Coral Triangle Region.