WWF Philippines in El Nido

7 May 2009

We first visited the El Nido Town to pay a visit to the dynamic Woman Mayor Leonor Corral. Mayor Corral took the time to give us an overview of her conservation efforts and initiatives and reiterated more than once the value of collaboration with NGOs such as the El Nido Foundation, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, and WWF Philippines. On her second term of office leading this municipality to sustainable development, with minimum fuss and funding, Mayor Corral has succeeded in conservation in ways so ingenious, it is a wonder it has not been copyrighted.

Law enforcement is key to conservation. In this incredibly remote place, illegal loggers and fishermen have ways and means to get their products from the land and sea, and it is impossibly expensive and ludicrous to hire a police force to watch over these areas. There is just no money.

Hook and line fisherman texting the El Nido mayor his eyewitness report on illegal activities

Hook and line fisherman texting the El Nido mayor his eyewitness report on illegal activities

But our smart mayor harnesses and utilizes the power of texting or SMS. Everyone, and I mean everyone in the Philippines own a cell phone – from the very poor to the very rich. It is so cheap and the network so good, the Philippines is technologically ahead in many ways. The mayor encourages, with small “e-load” rewards, small farmers and fishermen to text her if they are witness to crimes being committed. She has received immediate reports of logs coming out of rivers or commercial fishing vessels fishing inside municipal waters in far-flung areas, or even foreign vessels fishing in distant shores. With simple text messages, she quickly mobilizes the small armed forces she has, along with assistance from neighboring navy forces Task Force Malampaya, to quickly apprehend poachers.

29 August 2008, 101 dead hawksbill turtles were recovered from this Vietnamese fishing vessel five nautical miles east of Cabaluan Isle, El Nido.

29 August 2008, 101 dead hawksbill turtles were recovered from this Vietnamese fishing vessel apprehended in the vicinity of El Nido.

The mayor is proud of her people. They do not report to her for money (of which there is hardly any), but for pride of living in a place trying hard to become free of illegal activities.

Vigilant and sensitive to the community's need for local enforcement

Men In Black – vigilant and sensitive to the community’s need for local law enforcement

We photographed the municipality’s Patrol Men and their Team Leader Joel Rosento with the local WWF Philippines staff Robert Jaboli doing their rounds in the El Nido waters.

ENELEC wildlife watchers

ENELEC – Wildlife Watchers

The roadside checkpoint run by the El Nido Environmental Law Enforcement Council (ENELEC) watches out for illegal wildlife (e.g. birds, reptiles, mammals) being transported by land within Palawan.

May we kindly dissect your fish please?

May we kindly dissect your fish please?

Finally we followed RJ de la Calzada, WWF Project Manager of the El Nido project, and Local Government Unit (LGU) Fish Examiner Raffy Cabate at work. They regularly inspect fish coming in from big fishing vessels, and also in this case, sidewalk fish vendors, for fish showing signs of blast or dynamite fishing. While the outer appearance of fish harvested from blast fishing seems normal, there are three things they look out for in their fish examination:

  • Ruptured swim bladders
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Broken spinal cords
A little investigation before cooking your fish

A little investigation before cooking your fish

RJ has now taken on a new role as the Project Manager for the Coral Triangle Support Partnership for the Palawan Province.

For more information on El Nido, click into this big file : WWF El Nido Case Study

About the Author:

Stella was born in Manila, Philippines in 1965. She studied anthropology but ended up in advertising, producing radio and TV commercials for 7 years. After quitting advertising, she ventured into the freelance world in Manila producing video documentaries for a publishing house, government agencies, non govenmental organisations, and the academe. She moved on to producing books and had a stint at working with foreign production companies visiting Manila. Stella, now based in Cairns, produces photo stories with her husband Jürgen Freund.