The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines, through the support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), partners with the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau, to implement the SMARTSeas PH Project, a five-year project that aims to accelerate the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) and MPA networks to include more marine key biodiversity areas.
SMARTSeas has five demonstration sites in the Philippines including Verde Island Passage, Southern Palawan, Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, Lanuza Bay, and Davao Gulf. Each site will showcase different thematic areas in forming a sustainable MPA network.
Despite multi-sectoral efforts to abate the threats on marine and coastal habitat degradation, significant challenges remain, including effective management of MPAs, sufficient funding for marine conservation efforts, and a weak institutional framework to support the conservation, protection and management of the country’s marine ecosystem.
To address this, the project builds the capacity of the local government unit leaders and community organizations on MPA management by providing technical assistance to improve their management plans and reactivate MPA management bodies. The MPA management plans are inclusive of gender, indigenous people, and climate change adaptation components.
The SMARTSeas project includes the establishment of biodiversity-friendly enterprises as one of the major results of the project, as it aims to provide sustainable alternative livelihoods to coastal communities.
Local and national policy reviews were conducted to identify gaps in the legal framework that is required to sustain the conservation initiatives like SMARTSeas. Capacity building is also being carried out, including advocacy work on marine conservation, business and financial planning, and law enforcement. Science-based initiatives are also being undertaken, including a connectivity study in each site to determine the ecological interconnectedness of the individual MPAs that will form a network.