Strategic partnership boosts people's organization's biodiversity-friendly enterprise in Samal Island

by May Anne Ramos, UN Online Volunteer

September 8, 2021

Kayaking is one of the activities allowed in Sanipaan Marine Park. The fees collected from the tourists are also used in protecting and managing the marine sanctuary. Photo: DENR-BMB

Located within Davao Gulf, the Island Garden City of Samal boasts of its pristine white sand beaches and clean waters. The strong partnership between the people’s organizations (POs) and the local government units has been instrumental in keeping the area looking majestic and in maintaining its status as one of the top tourist spots in the country according to Iludeza Quesada, Development Management Officer of the City Investment and Tourism Office (CITO). One of the organizations that she actively coordinates with and regularly participates in the initiatives of CITO is the Sanipaan Marine Park Pangkabuhayan Association (SAMPPA), which manages the Sanipaan Marine Park—a 158-hectare marine protected area at Brgy. Tambo, Babak District.

Mahalaga ang partnership ng CITO at mga POs kasi kami ang gumagabay sa kanila at tumutulong para makapag-training sila at magkaroon ng livelihood (The partnership between CITO and POs is important because we guide them and help them to access training activities and establish their livelihood),” said Iludeza. SAMPPA members used to fish in the no-take zone area of the Sanipaan Marine Park. CITO assisted them to avail of the training and the necessary facilities so that they can engage in ecotourism as their alternative source of income.

 Iludeza emphasized that CITO has facilitated SAMPPA’s access to the training programs and other forms of assistance from the various government agencies, including the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Department of Tourism (DOT), among other agencies. SAMPPA has participated in the capacity-building activities on entrepreneurship, tour guiding, handcrafting, and other topics that are relevant to help communities manage their ecotourism enterprises. The skills training activities were all based on the needs that SAMMPA identified during workshops and assessments.

Walang idinikta sa kanila diyan. Lahat ng training naaayon sa tingin nila na kailangan nila pero siyempre may guidance namin (We did not dictate which capacity-building activities they should participate in. All the trainings was based on their needs but, of course, it was conducted with our guidance,” Iludeza explained.

Aside from linking SAMPPA to government assistance, CITO has sensitized the association on marine protected area conservation and its importance to the environment and coastal communities.

“I think they (SAMPPA) developed a very good understanding and appreciation of managing the protected area,” said Iludeza. “Hindi naman magiging one of the best marine protected areas ang Sanipaan Marine Park noong 2018 kung hindi maayos ang pag-aalaga dito (Sanipaan Marine Park would not have been one of the best marine protected areas in 2018 if it was not managed properly).”

The low-value grant that SAMPPA received from the DENR-SMARTSeas PH jumpstarted the association’s livelihood, Iludeza shared. One of the activities conducted for SAMPPA’s biodiversity-friendly enterprise (BDFE) was the training on kayaking and snorkeling. Twelve SAMPPA members are now included in Sanipaan Marine Park’s roster of kayak and snorkel guides. Other water sports equipment, like life vests and ring buoys, were also delivered to the association.

Even though resorts and hotels are operating at only 70 percent capacity, SAMPPA and CITO expect that Samal Island’s ecotourism will regain its tourist traffic soon and SAMPPA’s upgraded eco-tour services will be in demand, which means more income for the tour guides, bangkero, handcrafters, and tricycle drivers.

SAMPPA still has a lot to learn, and Iludeza assured that the local government will always provide support to the association. This support varies from mentoring its leaders and developing their entrepreneurial and management skills to linking them to hotels and resorts, as well as government agencies for relevant assistance. The local government also pledged to complement the PO’s enterprise by building key infrastructure projects to spruce up Sanipaan Marine Park and make it more accessible to tourists. 

Malaking bagay ang kooperasyon sa isang partnership. Para sa amin sa CITO, dapat totoo lagi ang serbisyo para pagkakatiwalaan ka PO (Cooperation is important in a partnership. We, at CITO, believe that we should provide genuine service so the PO will trust us,” Iludeza said.