Scientific advisory body, Fellowship of the Reefs, breathes new life into Tubbataha marine science research

Ecosystem research and monitoring is one of the main strategies in the management of Tubbataha.  Through research, park authorities determine ecosystem health, generate sound scientific information for decision-making, and measure biophysical indicators of management effectiveness.

To achieve these, Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) needs guidance from more experienced and specialized scientists.  Help is needed to develop in-house capability and raise the quality of scientific output on Tubbataha.  With this in mind, the Tubbataha management board established a scientific advisory body called the Fellowship of the Reefs.

The body consists of eight scientists from different disciplines and has accepted the responsibility of guiding, counseling, and furnishing technical advice to TMO for the next three years. They are:

1. Hazel O. Arceo, a Doctor of Science specializing in marine biodiversity, coral reef and fish ecology, and resource management. She is a faculty member of the Department of Biology and Environmental Science of the University of the Philippines-Cebu.  Dr. Arceo has been working with TMO since 2015, conducting reef fish monitoring and researching the soundscapes of Tubbataha through passive acoustics.

2. Ma. Theresa R. Aquino, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has served as a technical consultant of TMO since 2009. She conducted the first dedicated cetacean study of Tubbataha beginning in 2004 and participates in seabird and marine turtle monitoring. Dr. Aquino served as the deputy park manager and resident scientist of TMO from 2009 to 2011.

3. Roger G. Dolorosa has a Ph.D. Environmental Science and did the first dedicated study of gastropods and mollusks in Tubbataha. He is a Professor in the College of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences of the Western Philippines University-Puerto Princesa Campus. Dr. Dolorosa continues to provide scientific advice and guidance as a member of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Boards.

4. Arne Erik Jensen is an environmental scientist specializing in geography, biology, and natural resources management and monitoring. He has decades of experience working with international conservation organizations and is an expert on birds. He designed the seabird monitoring protocol for Tubbataha in 2004 and has since been involved in seabird study and conservation in Tubbataha.

5. Wilfredo Rhoehl Y. Licuanan has a Ph.D. in Biology, specializing in coral taxonomy, coral reef ecology, and monitoring.  He is a Full Professor of the Biology Department and a University Fellow at De La Salle University.  He led the nationwide reassessment of the status of Philippine coral reefs. Dr. Licuanan has been studying the reefs of Tubbataha since 2012.

6. Nicholas J. Pilcher, a Doctor in Philosophy whose research focused on the analysis of marine turtle nesting grounds and the environmental threats they face. He specializes in marine turtle ecology and biology and has been involved in marine turtle monitoring since 2010.  Dr. Pilcher designed the marine turtle monitoring protocol for Tubbataha.

7. Maricor N. Soriano has a Ph.D. in Physics and is a Professor at the National Institute of Physics at UP Diliman. Her research revolved around Color, Optics, Video, and Image Processing applied to Marine Science and Spectral and Medical Imaging, among others. She led the assessment of ship grounding impacts in 2013 and onwards.

8. Cesar L. Villanoy has a Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography. He is an Academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) specializing in ocean modeling, habitat connectivity, and pollution. He has conducted oceanographic studies in Tubbataha since 2006.

Thank you for all your help in the past and for your selfless contributions in the coming years!

Novel bacteria with medical applications found in Tubbataha

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when disease-causing microbes change over time to become ‘superbugs’. They are harder to treat because they can resist the drug’s effects, thus increasing the risk of severe infection and death. It is projected that by 2050, drug-resistant microbes will cause ten million deaths every year if the problem is not solved. This “silent pandemic” must be addressed urgently, or the death toll could continue to rise. To help fight AMR, we have to discover and develop new antibiotics.

We have exhausted sources of novel drugs and medicines from land and we now turn to the ocean for sources of novel drugs.  Our exploration in Tubbataha led us to the discovery of a new bacteria dwelling on marine sediments, a.k.a. “Bacteria sa Buhangin”, which we propose to name Streptomyces tubbatahanensis sp. nov.  (’sis. N.L. masc. adj. tubbatahanensis pertaining to Tubbataha, where the type strain was isolated).

The bacterium produces many natural compounds that can be developed into an antibiotic that could one day address the problem of AMR. This finding is only the beginning of a process that could take years to produce the drug that will alleviate the suffering of humanity. Yet, this new scientific breakthrough demonstrates that Tubbataha is home to new and novel marine microorganisms that are potential sources of compounds with medical and pharmaceutical uses.

Doralyn S. Dalisay, Ph.D.

Director | Center for Chemical Biology and Biotechnology

Department of Science and Technology Balik Scientist Awardee

The full research paper can be accessed here: Streptomyces tubbatahanensis sp. nov., a Novel Actinomycete Isolated from Sulu Sea, Philippines







The invitation published by the Museum Volunteers of the Philippines on the Tubbataha Lecture Series.


The Museum Volunteers of the Philippines was founded in 1981 and is a non profit, apolitical, non-sectarian organization that focuses on bringing Filipino history and culture to a wider audience by providing aid to local museums. After reading the coffee table book Tubbataha: A National Treasure, the organization took interest in TRNP. On March 28, 2017 at the Ateneo Law School Amphitheatre, Tubbataha Protected Area Superintendent, Angelique Songco and volunteer scientist Teri Aquino shared a presentation on the management and science of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Ms. Tet Lara and Ms. Marissa Floirendo were also given a chance to talk about the contents of Tubbataha: A National Treasure and to share their inspiration which led them to publish the book.


Marissa Floirendo talks about what led her to publish the book.

Photographer Tet Lara describes her photos and what they meant to her.


Tubbataha Youth Ambassador Program wins Silver Anvil Award

pasu anvil awards 2017

From left:  Paulo Gavino, External Relations Manager, SPEX, Edgar Veron Cruz, Executive Director, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., (PSFI) Marvi Trudeau, Program Manager, PSFI, Angelique Songco, Protected ARea Superintendent, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Lerelie Osial, Finance Manager, SPEX, and Don Paulino, Managing Director, SPEX.

At the 52nd Anvil Awards, held in Shangri-La Makati last 10 March 2017, Tubbataha conservation initiatives funded by the Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) and the Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation won the Silver Anvil Awards.  The Tubbataha Youth Ambassador Program won one of the awards.  The Anvil Awards is given by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines to companies that sustainably implement public relations programs or tools.

Video Production on Rules and Regulations Underway

Bullet Manila was commissioned by the AOF to develop a short video on the rules and regulation for tourists.  Tubbataha Protected Area Superintendent, Angelique Songco, is featured emphasizing adherence to the rules.  The video will accompany the work earlier produced entitled Reefs, and aims to engender voluntary compliance amongst park users.

Tubbataha In Malacanang

Last 8 March 2017, the Antonio O. Floirendo Foundation (AOF) through its members Marissa and Jenny Floirendo, together with photographer, Tet Lara, Tubbataha PASu, Angelique Songco, and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Program Manager, Marvi Trudeau, presented President Rodrigo Duterte with copies of the coffee table book Tubbataha:  A National Treasure.  A showing of the Tubbataha video, Reefs, also produced by AOF, was held to showcase the beauty and importance of Tubbataha to the country.  The President committed to support the conservation of Tubbataha and thanked the group for its efforts.

Stakeholders discuss security issues ahead of 2017 dive season



Standing (L-R): Maj. Glenn Destriza PN (M) WESCOM, Lt. Col. Dennis Michael Ituriaga PM (3MBDE), Mr. Jose Buenconsejo (PDRRMO), Commo Allan Ferdinand V Cusi FP (WESCOM), Ms. Angelique Songco (TRNP PASU), Mr. Mark Bratschi (DSCHUBBA), Mr. Nazario Gabinete (M/Y ZAMERDIUS), Mr. Dino Pangioñi (M/Y SAKURA), CAPT. Rommel Anthony Reyes PN (NFW), ENS Peter Mathew Herminado PCG (CGD-Pal); Sitting (R-L): Lt. Col. Felix M Balanza Jr PAF (570 CTW), PO3 Absalon A Beronio PNP (PNP-Maritime); Mr. Segundo Conales Jr (TRNP-MPR), PENS Harvy Cerdena PCG (CGD-Pal), and Mr. Cresencio Caranay Jr. (TRNP-MPR)

PUERTO PRINCESA – In preparation for the scuba diving season, various agencies converged to discuss intensified security arrangements for the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, 09 February.

The group recognized that tourism is one of the main drivers of the Philippine economy and articulated the need to protect it at all cost. Commodore Allan Ferdinand Cusi of the Western Command presided over the meeting. Other participants were the 3rd Marine Brigade of Philippine Marines, the Naval Forces Northwest, the 570 Command Tactical Wing of the Philippine Airforce, the Philippine Coast Guard District-Palawan, the Provincial Government Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Office, scuba diving operators, and the Tubbataha Management Office.

A LAMAVE Press Release – 1000th Whale Shark Identified in Philippine Waters

18 August 2016 – The 1000th whale shark has been identified in Philippine waters, making the Philippines the third largest known aggregation of whale sharks in the world and the biggest in South East Asia, according to the online library Wildbook for whale sharks.  Whale sharks are identified by their unique spot pattern, and scientists all over the world use this pattern on the left side of their body to distinguish between individuals.  Researchers from the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) and WWF-Philippines have been adopting this technique for a number of years and together with submissions from the public the Philippines reached 1000 identified individual whale sharks this week.


The 1000th whale shark is an incredibly important milestone for the country and one which every Filipino can be proud of.  Once coined as the capital of whale shark hunting in South East Asia, the Philippines changed the fate of the species in 1998 when it became the third country in the world to protect whale sharks under Fisheries Administrative Order 193. Since then, the population is showing signs of slow recovery.  Today this iconic species attracts thousands of tourists every year and even features on the 100 peso bill.


However, dangers lurk in the surrounding seas, meaning that it is now more important than ever to protect these animals.  Recently the species was upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a consequence of the historical and ongoing threat of illegal fisheries, particularly in the South China Sea, and the fact that whale sharks are animals that make large scale movements across international borders.  Researchers from LAMAVE and the Marine Megafauna Foundation have been investigating the movements of Philippine sharks using satellite tags to better understand the implications of these threats to whale sharks encountered in Philippine waters.

The 1000th shark, was spotted by Mr. Jon Jon Rufino whilst diving in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Jon Jon sent the video to LAMAVE and the Tubbataha Management Office, as part of a citizen science project which encourages visitors to the park to contribute photographs and videos of their shark encounters to assess the biodiversity of the park.  Jon Jon’s footage revealed that the shark is a juvenile male, similar in size to the juvenile sharks we see closer to shore in Donsol and Southern Leyte.  Jon Jon’s encounter is one of an increasing number of sightings in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the past few years.  To date Tubbataha Reefs have contributed a total of 65 individuals to the national catalog of whale sharks, with additional individuals pending upload.  These figures highlight the importance of the park for the largest fish in the sea.

To mark this milestone, the 1000th shark will be nicknamed “Pangga” (short for “Palangga,” which means beloved) to honor the Philippines’ relationship with this enormous shark, which we hope will continue to be an iconic species for the country long into the future.

A video illustrating the full story and featuring LAMAVE Executive Director Jessica Labaja is available here:

The 1000th whale shark on WildBook for whale sharks is available to view here:

For further information, please contact Sally Snow at:

[email protected]

#TubbatahaTiger UPDATE!

Tiger Update_1

August 5, 2016, the adult female tiger shark tagged by LAMAVE and the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) has transmitted her location beyond the boundaries of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP).

The female shark, which has been nicknamed #tubbatahatiger is the first tiger shark to be fitted with a satellite tag in the Coral Triangle. The deployment of the tag is part of a study by LAMAVE and TMO to understand more about the range and habitat use of tiger sharks both within the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and outside this marine protected area (MPA). The information gathered via satellite will be essential in helping to manage the future of the species within TRNP and the Philippines.

The map gives us an insight into her movements, with each marker representing a transmission sent via satellite each time she swam with the dorsal fin exposed above the surface of the water. The markers located within the park (inside the purple boundary) show that she is moving between both the North and the South Islet as well as further offshore.

While only the beginning of her journey, these results already reveal the importance of developing large marine protected areas, such as Tubbataha Reefs, which offer more complete habitat protection for apex predators such as tiger sharks. However, her journey outside the park implies that if we want to ensure a future for these incredible animals in the Philippines, the species needs to be protected nationwide and not just within marine protected areas such as TRNP, which is currently one of the only places to see these amazing sharks in the Philippines.

Where will she go next? Have you seen a tiger shark outside of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park? Share your encounter with us and stay tuned for the next ping.

Masked booby seen ‘nesting’ in Tubbataha [2nd update]

To further investigate the arrival of a masked booby (Sula dactylatra) in the Park and the egg found with it, two park staff set foot on the Bird Islet on 17 June 2016.

Park Ranger – Researcher Segundo Conales Jr. and Researcher Jeric Dejucos saw the masked booby incubating an egg during their previous visit just over a week ago. This time, it was a female brown booby on the very same nest, over the very same egg that they saw. The masked booby however was still there, standing its ground about a meter away from the nest.

masked booby egg 3rd update

They were able to measure the egg with a caliper and found it to be 6.2 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide. The park staff barely had a minute to do the measurements because the two birds immediately flew back to the spot together.


Researcher Mr. Segundo Conales Jr. measuring the dimensions of the alleged masked booby egg with a caliper.

“We cannot conclude anything about the egg.” said Jensen, since there is no available literature about cross-breeding between the two seabird species. However, he is interested in this behavior and wonder whether the masked booby is acting as a ‘foster father’. “It’s going to be very interesting to learn how he (masked booby) will behave and feed this adopted baby.” added Jensen.

Until now, nothing is certain about the case of the masked booby as Mr. Jensen wants TMO to “see what comes out of the egg.” The egg is expected to hatch by the first half of July.