Tubbataha partners with PN on KIG pre-deployment orientation

The Tubbataha Management Office has been supporting the Philippine Navy in its regular pre-deployment orientation for their personnel who will be detailed in the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Seas since 2013. The said orientation includes modules on on basic ecology and conservation of the marine environment where the Tubbataha Management Office is tasked to facilitate the sessions.  On September 10, about 60 personnel from the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Marines joined the orientation that aims to prepare the team for their important role in the KIG, not just in securing our sovereignty but also our marine resources. KIG_Sep10,2015_grufie     KIG_Sep10,2015_gerlie KIG_Sep10,2015_ggs      

Be the next Tubbataha Youth Ambassador

The search is on for the next set of Tubbataha Youth Ambassadors.

If you have the passion to make active contributions in the conservation of our marine environment, then you must be the one we are looking for!

The Tubbataha Management Office in partnership with the Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. is inviting all young Palaweño who want to become marine conservation advocates and leaders.

Interested applicants, must possess the following qualifications:

  • 20 to 25 years old
  • College graduate
  • Have a strong interest in conservation, environmental issues, volunteerism and advocacy work
  • Be able to complete the full duration of his/her TYA engagement
  • Have good oral and written communication skills
  • Have regular access to the internet and competent in online browsing, social networks, etc.
  • Currently residing in Palawan

Aspirants must submit a completed Application Form with a recent 2 x 2” ID photograph to: Tubbataha Management Office in Manalo Extension, Bgy. San Miguel, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan or  email it to:[email protected]. Deadline for submission of application is on October 23, 2015 (12nn).

Download Application form here.

For more information please contact:

Tubbataha acquires adaptive technologies to combat climate change

The Tubbataha Management Office is the beneficiary a biogas digester, rainwater harvesting system and bio sand water filter after serving as venue and demonstration site for the two-week training on adaptive technologies held by WWF-Philippines on 14-26 September 2015.  The Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation – ITN Foundation conducted the training in collaboration with WWF-Philippines.

A biogas digester is a sealed chamber similar to a septic tank - and can also be used as one.  Gas produced by decomposing wastes is captured and used. Biogas is formed when anaerobic organisms that requires no oxygen to grow, feed off the organic wastes that are deposited into the digester. These microorganisms produce methane and carbon dioxide as a metabolic waste product.
A biogas digester is a sealed chamber similar to a septic tank - and can also be used as one. Gas produced by decomposing wastes is captured and used. Biogas is formed when anaerobic organisms that requires no oxygen to grow, feed off the organic wastes that are deposited into the digester. These microorganisms produce methane and carbon dioxide as a metabolic waste product.

The trainees came from Puerto Princesa City and the Municipality of Cagayancillo.  Sessions on the construction, operation and maintenance of the biogas digester and rainwater harvesting system, using a low-cost construction system called ferrocement, were part of the training.

Engr. Apolonio Jimenez and Yunusri Ong of the Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation, a non-government organization with extensive experience in providing technical assistance to communities nationwide in enhancing water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), particularly through the use of ferrocement, facilitated the hands-on training.   Engr. Jimemez explained that households have been found to be one of the major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions and therefor to climate change.   The technology his group brings contributes not only to the elimination of household emissions but generates savings for the household as well.

This rainwater harvesting system was built using ferrocement technology, a system that favors the use of closely spaced mortar and small diameter reinforcements such as wires and mesh, reducing construction cost by 60-70%.
This rainwater harvesting system was built using ferrocement technology, a system that favors the use of closely spaced mortar and small diameter reinforcements such as wires and mesh, reducing construction cost by 60-70%.

In June this year, marine park rangers reported incidents of coral bleaching in Tubbataha.  The bleaching incident is attributed to the rising sea temperature, which is one of the impacts of climate change.

bio sand filter
A bio sand filter cleans harvested water so that it is safe for drinking. Collected water goes through a slow filtration process, passing through layers of disinfected sand and gravel. This technology is proven to remove 95-99% of organic contaminants.

Tubbataha to seek PSSA designation from IMO

The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, with the help of various sectors, will seek the establishment of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park & World Heritage Site (TRNP) as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to mitigate the threats posed by escalating shipping activities in the periphery of the park.

Critical location, imminent threats
Tubbataha_Sulu Sea nav map
Tracks of oil, chemical, passenger, and other vessels in the Sulu Sea. The red triangle represents the boundaries of Tubbataha.

Tubbataha lies at the junction of the two shipping routes that traverse the Sulu Sea: the north-south and the east-west routes. These navigational routes connect the West Philippine Sea to the Celebes Sea in the south and to the Pacific Ocean on the eastern border of the Philippines.  Shipping remains to be the most cost efficient way of transporting cargo around the world, thereby the world’s shipping fleet is expected to grow in the coming years.

Studies on shipping activities and oceanography in the Sulu Sea reveal that pollutants could cross Tubbataha at any month due to the proximity of ship tracks to the park.  Further, should chemical and oil spills take place, it will reach the Tubbataha Reefs within 4 hours to 8.5 days,  giving park authorities and the Philippine Coast Guard inadequate time to respond.

In 2013, two grounding incidents involving a US warship and a Chinese fishing vessel ruined more than 6,000 square meters of coral reefs in the park. These incidents have highlighted Tubbataha’s vulnerability to the potentially devastating impacts of the shipping activities. Aside from ships’ groundings, other threats include alien invasive species and oil and chemical spills, all with devastating effects of coral reefs.

Working towards PSSA designation

In order to protect the park from the impacts of international shipping, its establishment as a PSSA is being sought.  PSSAs are areas that need special protection because of their vulnerability to damage by international shipping activities. IMO is the body that designates PSSAs in areas recognized for ecological, socio-economic, or scientific significance.

In 2013, a consultation workshop was held among local stakeholders to identify initial concerns about, and possible obstacles to pursuing a PSSA designation. The Philippine Government took its first step in the application process with the submission of an information paper to the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO in 2014.

On 1 October 2015, stakeholders will gather for the second time to review TRNP’s application dossier.  The dossier contains information and necessary documentation that will justify a grant of PSSA status before the IMO and the international commercial shipping community. The dossier will be submitted to the IMO’s MEPC early next year.

The Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Foreign Affairs, UNESCO, University of the Philippines – Institutes for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (UP-IMLOS), Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, and the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, with assistance from the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO, are working closely towards this designation.


Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Critically Endangered Marine Turtle in Tubbataha


The Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), one of seven marine turtle species in the world and one of five in the Philippines, is thriving in Tubbataha!

Named after their beak-like mouth that is used for crushing, biting and tearing off their favorite food – the sponges – Hawksbills are otherwise highly valued for their shells. For centuries, their amber colored carapace (upper shell), with a striking pattern of light and dark streaks and mottled brown-black colors radiating to its sides, were targeted as tortoiseshell material used in jewelry-making, furniture and other ornaments.

In the last century, declines in the global populations of Hawksbills were estimated at more than 80%.  Independent assessments have identified Hawksbills as Critically Endangered. In the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), it is listed in Appendix I and is banned from global trade amongst signatory nations including the Philippines.

In Tubbataha, hawksbills are protected and happy. Divers observe these charismatic marine animals reaching into crevices of coral reefs searching for food and feeding on sponges, algae and marine invertebrates.  In so doing, they free up space for settlement of other organisms such as reef-building corals and support healthy reef growth.

Coral bleaching observed in Tubbataha

Tubbataha marine park rangers (MPRs) reported possible coral bleaching in the park, which was first observed in July this year. The team of MPRs on-duty surveyed the atolls and took some photos of the bleached corals. These photos were checked and confirmed to be a bleaching event by marine science experts.

A photo of bleached corals taken by marine park rangers in Tubbataha last July 2015.

Patches of bleached corals were observed from the dive sites called Amos Rock to South Park and in areas around the Bird Islet in the North Atoll. In the South Atoll, Black Rock to Delsan Wreck showed signs of bleaching and so did the Jessie Beazley Reef. Affected corals were mostly in branching and tabular form and occurs at different depths. More recent report s reveal that some of the bleached corals are now overgrown by algae , indicating that several weeks have elapsed since the occurrence.

The TMO research staff is bound for Tubbataha this evening to further document and record the bleaching event occurring in the park. The team will make use of the Automated Rapid Reef Assessment System (ARRAS) to obtain visual documentation of the condition of the corals. ARRAS is the product of collaboration between the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute, National Institute of Physics and the Mapua Institute of Technology made possible by funding provided by the Department of Science and Technology. A report will also be sent to the NOAA Coral Reef Watch, in order to contribute to the global data.

Tubbataha-PAGASA CC101_sonnypajarilla
Mr. Sonny Pajarilla, the Chief Meteorological Officer of DOST-PAGASA Puerto Princesa, giving lecture on climate change with TMO and WWF-Philippines staff.

Today, Mr. Sonny Pajarilla, the Chief Meteorological Officer of DOST-PAGASA Puerto Princesa, conducted a training on basic meteorology and climate change for TMO and WWF Philippines Tubbataha project staff. He revealed that international prediction centers have reached a consensus that this El Nino event, which began in November 2014, will persist until February 2016, making it one of the worst El Nino incidents on record.

High water temperatures and ocean acidity are factors that could cause corals to expel their zooxanthellae, leading to a lighter or completely white appearance, hence the term 'bleached'.

PCSSD, TMO to install mooring system in Apo Reef

PCSSD-TMO_ARNP_mooringbuoy project

Mid-August, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) and Philippine Commission on Sports SCUBA Diving (PCSSD) completed the first phase the mooring buoys installation project for Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP). Tubbataha Reefs Protected Area Superintendent Angelique Songco personally went to ARNP to assist in the inspection and evaluation of proposed mooring sites and to determine the most appropriate mooring system to install in each site.

Tubbataha has been using an embedded mooring system since 2009. The system involves drilling and cementing of moorings underwater through the use of an hydraulic installation equipment.  It provides a more stable mooring facility hence prevents further damage to coral reefs.

Having the prior experience in installing the said mooring system in Tubbataha Reefs, the TMO supports PCSSD's conservation project for ARNP, which aims to develop Apo Reef and promote tourism in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.

Apo Reef is located approximately 33 kilometers off the coast of Sablayan in the province of Occidental Mindoro. Its coral reefs cover a total area of 34 square kilometers, making it the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world. However, coral reefs in Apo Island are now facing serious damage caused by anchoring.

Read PCSSD's article for more details.

Tubbataha prepares for administrative adjudication

Tubbataha Adjudication training_day2_grufie

The members of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) underwent a two-day training on administrative adjudication to prepare them for their role as members of the Tubbataha Investigation Committee (TIC).

The Committee is charged with accepting and investigating all administrative cases resulting from violations of the RA 10067 or the Tubbataha Act. Ten of the TPAMB members compose the TIC, which was created pursuant to Section 11 of RA 10067.

Tubbataha Adjudication training_day2_maotaytay

The Environmental Legal Action Center and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development organized the training and shared their experience in the conduct of administrative adjudication of environment-related cases. Mr. Hernan Fenix of the Fishery Management Unit of Taytay, Palawan also related the municipality's vast experience in adjudicating illegal use cases in their locality.

The training, which was held on 18 – 19 August 2015 at Citystate Asturias Hotel, Puerto Princesa City, was co-funded by Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

A guide to diving Tubbataha: What to expect when exploring the protected UNESCO World Heritage Site via liveaboard

It’s quite something to be able to dive and explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around the world, a handful of such spots exist—the Galapagos Islands, Komodo National Park, the Great Barrier Reef—and believe me, I will conquer all of them (and more) eventually, but now, right now, I want and need to share the beauty of one of these places with you, and that’s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

A 130,028-hectare protected marine area located right smack in the middle of the Sulu Sea in the Philippines, Tubbataha was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1993. Tubbataha really has all the makings of a perfect dive destination, and I could go on and on about its impressive facts and figures: it’s also an ASEAN Heritage Park, it’s home to nearly half of all coral species found in the world as well as over 180 threatened (or near threatened) species… there’s so much to say about just its credentials alone.

Here’s the thing though: you can only dive Tubbataha from mid-March through mid-June—just three months a year. When the dive season is over, weather and sea conditions become unfavourable. Also, because of its remoteness, the only way you can dive Tubbataha is to book a spot on a liveaboard. Sure, from what I’ve just told you, it’s hard to imagine any diver who’d want to immediately stick Tubbataha in his must-visit list, but I do believe one of the reasons the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site is in tip-top condition is due to its “exclusivity”. And, I have to say that this very “exclusivity”, coupled with the incredible conservation efforts of the marine park rangers (more on this later), is what made my dive trip the best one yet—so much so that I freak out each time I think about how I’m ever going to top this trip!

Read more of Sam David's Tubbataha experience...

PSFI, DOE, SPEX donate lifejackets to Tubbataha

Tubbataha_lifejacket_fromPSFI_2015Today, Tubbataha Protected Area Superintendent Angelique Songco, together with marine park rangers Segundo Conales and Jeffrey David, received 29 lifejackets that the Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) for use in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

PSFI Program Manager Marvi Trudeau, on behalf of Department of Energy, through Shell Philippines Exploration B.V (SPEX), issued the lifejackets during a short turn-over ceremony held at the PSFI office early this morning.

The additional lifejackets will be very useful for the marine park rangers as they perform their functions in the park.

The Tubbataha Management Office is grateful to PSFI and SPEX for consistently supporting the conservation of the Tubbataha Reefs.