Australia’s support paves way to the passage of a policy that promotes marine protection and management, and a more sustainable future for the coastal community of Burgos, Surigao del Norte.
As a coastal conservation advocate, Krizelle de la Cruz works with fishing communities on coastal resource protection and management to ensure that marine resources are protected for the communities’ food and job security and environmental sustainability.
In Burgos, Krizelle and her team were trying to address the problem of overfishing. Overfishing dramatically depletes the fish population in an area, leaving no time for fish to reproduce and creating an imbalance in the food chain. Aware of this threat, local officials began to enforce fishing regulations – until they realized they had no legal basis due to the lack of a municipal ordinance. This held them back from enforcing the regulations.
“Our team acknowledged that having a local ordinance is key to managing fishing activities more sustainably. The policy could also promote accountability for the relevant government agencies and the community involved in managing their coastal resources,” said Krizelle.
Krizelle’s team presented the idea to the Burgos local officials who were generally in favor of the ordinance. However, the team was confused about the responsibilities and implementation arrangements among the local government unit, the relevant national government agencies and coalitions, and other development partners. Elected officials were also concerned about losing public support as some community members feared that they may lose livelihoods as a result of the passing of the ordinance. For more than a year, the proposed ordinance showed no progress.
While Krizelle knew that the policy needed to be informed further and pushed towards approval and enactment, she was new to policy making and needed help determining which steps to take to reach that goal. So, she joined a month-long online course on Development Entrepreneurship, which brought together development professionals to learn about 12 keys to successful policy reform. The course was supported by the Australian Government and The Asia Foundation. Through the course, Krizelle also met fellow development professionals working on gender and human and food security who encouraged her to move forward.
“I joined the Development Entrepreneurship Online Course to better understand the policy formulation process,” said Krizelle. “I had very little knowledge on policy, and I’m very glad to have learned how it can be approached in an entrepreneurial way – the course taught me to treat policy like a business “product” that you can continuously innovate and develop,” she added.
Development Entrepreneurship Principle #1: Start by making small bets
Even before she participated in the DE Online Course, Krizelle and her team had already started “making small bets” by supporting the Burgos Municipal Agriculture Office in organizing a Coastal Zoning Workshop. They invited local government officials, technical staff, and fisherfolk to the workshop which became an avenue for all of them to work together to draft the provisions for the ordinance, discuss potential benefits, and identify possible marine areas for protection.
The activity merited the participation of the Vice Mayor, who eagerly joined the breakout groups, but it was the fisherfolk who led the discussions and gave recommendations on which coastal areas could be assigned as MPAs.
“What can we do with the officials of the LGU so that we can protect our seas and that our resources will not be destroyed?”, Vice Mayor Pedrita Dominos challenged the participants during the workshop.
With the help of the Municipal Agriculture Office, Krizelle’s team also collaborated with local government representatives who shared their success stories on how identifying optimal locations for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in some areas paved the way for increased livelihood opportunities for the communities through fishing and tourism.
“We decided to expand our Lakyajon MPA northeastward after seeing how viable it can be from the Conservation Priority Marxan Map and through the support of (LGU thru) Vice Mayor,” Renan Golandrina, a fisherfolk from Bgry. Poblacion, shared. “It is for the future generation and for my children”, Joel Galos, a fisher from Brgy. Baybay, added.
“If managed well, we are excited to showcase this MPA’s buffer zone as a potential tourism dive site to complement the ongoing development of the Sumyot Cave” said Municipal Agriculturist Oscar Domiños.
Following the workshop, local officials of Burgos publicly endorsed the establishment of MPAs.
“With the approval of our Municipal Fisheries Ordinance, we hope that the community, especially the fisherfolks, will reap its benefits and adhere and comply with the provisions. As local officials, we commit towards providing a clear and better understanding of the Ordinance as our interventions will not be as impactful if we, as leaders, do not cooperate,” said Hon. Marichu P. Galagar, Sangguniang Bayan Member, Municipality of Burgos.
Development Entrepreneurship Principle #2: Iterate – with a view to improving
Sustaining the momentum of support, Krizelle and her team organized feedback sessions every two months with leaders of fishers’ groups, Sangguniang Bayan members, other civil society groups, and the LGU. Krizelle helped facilitate these discussions – encouraging local officials to present updates on the ordinance and the community members to share their inputs. After a year of these feedback sessions, the group arrived at a draft ordinance acceptable to all.
On the 21st of March 2022, Municipal Ordinance 01 Series of 2022 titled :“An Ordinance Providing for the Sustainable Development, Management, Utilization and Conservation of the Coastal and Fisheries Resources of the Municipality of Burgos, Imposing Penalty for Violation Thereof, Declaring Mandatory Allocation of Funds Therefor, Integrating All Other Ordinances Pertinent Thereto, and for other Related Purposes” was finally passed.
Key features of the Ordinance include: (1) establishes the location and limits of Municipal Waters; (2) establishes production zones for fishing, aquaculture, protection zones, marine protected areas, tourism zones, etc; (3) establishes activities that will be allowed/ not allowed within each area; (4) requires the alignment of related development plans to this Ordinance; (5) requires registration and licensing of municipal fishers, vessels, and fishing gear; (6) establishment and maintenance of a registry of fisherfolk; (7) defines strategies for coastal and fisheries resource management; and (8 ) establishes a Multi-sectoral Committee and Monitoring and Evaluation teams to see to the enforcement of the Ordinance.
Of these provisions, Items 4 to 7 are about operationalizing the Ordinance. The most significant is the registration and licensing of fishers, fishing vehicles and gear; and the establishment of local bodies responsible for enforcing the Ordinance.
By June, the Burgos’ Municipal Government has actively disseminated information on the Ordinance, including the marine protected areas, by taking advantage of the celebration of Adlaw nan Burgos (Day of Burgos), the town foundation day.
“I am very grateful for the Australian Embassy’s support for the Development Entrepreneurship program, which inspired development practitioners like me to step out of our comfort zones and pursue policy reform. If not because of the DE program, I may not have earned the courage and diligence to progress in this policy journey. DE did not only help me lead and support the passing of Burgos Fisheries Ordinance but also catalyzed significant progress in the policy journey led by my colleagues. Much like developing a product in business, policy reform indeed takes determination, diligence and collaborative community effort,” said Krizelle.
“Six months after the fishing ordinance was passed in 2022, there was a 21 percent increase in the number of households in Burgos that believed there was a benefit in regulating fishing via managed access areas and reserves or sanctuaries. To date, one more ordinance has been passed in the Municipality of Pilar, while the Municipality of General Luna in Siargao is in the works using the case strategies and resources of the Burgos journey as a guide,” Krizelle proudly shared.