Why North Mindoro?

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Our impact so far

© Background image: Christian Manalo

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Ha MPA with enhanced biodiversity protection & control of destructive & unsustainable fishing activities (including 27,200 ha of coral reefs)

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Regional MPAs under management

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Ha of coral reef ecosystem being rehabilitated

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Ha of mangroves protected and partially restored

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Threatened species being protected

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Coastal community members with enhanced livelihoods

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Jobs created for MPA management staff and rangers

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Hours of patrols conducted

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Reef-positive businesses in development

Extension

To additional neighbouring MPAs and waters

© Photo credit: Thomas Vignaud

Our Vision

Regenerating coral reef ecosystems, empowering local communities, and increasing climate change resilience.

Our focus is on increasing the health and resilience of marine ecosystems and improving local livelihoods in and around the conservation area. This aligns with the vision of the local Governments of Abra de Ilog, Baco, Calapan, Puerto Galera and San Teodoro, as well as that of the central Government through its Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Provincial Governments and we are working together to reduce destructive and unsustainable fishing activities; develop a Blue Economy based on sustainable ecotourism, blue carbon and responsible aquaculture; and employ targeted conservation measures.

Surrounded by and incorporating active local fishing communities, our activities contribute to the regeneration of marine biodiversity as well as providing sustainable sources of protein and income for local communities. Improving the health of marine ecosystems also enables the creation of viable ecotourism businesses, increased protection from coastal flooding, and decreased beach erosion.

We measure our impacts through five primary socio-ecological Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Impact metrics are time-bound and require clear positive impact linked to specific conservation measures, divided into biodiversity, management, livelihoods and Blue Carbon.

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We measure our impacts using five socio-ecological Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

Regeneration of coral reef ecosystems

Regeneration of mangrove ecosystems

Recovery of species from overfishing and illegal destructive fishing

Improved catch by coastal fishers

Job creation in the MPAs and reef-positive enterprises

Our MPA Co-Management Partner

Collaborative co-management on behalf of local government

In 2021, the Local Government Units (LGUs) of Baco, Calapan, Puerto Galera, and San Teodoro signed agreements with Blue Alliance for the delegated management of the North Mindoro MPA network, comprising 9 MPAs and 62,000 ha of municipal waters. In mid-2023, the municipality of Abra de Ilog signed a similar agreement, adding 3 more MPAs and 50,000 ha of additional municipal waters.

Through these agreements, LGUs aim to improve the health of marine ecosystems for present and future generations of local fisher communities, and to provide alternative livelihood options in the Blue Economy, namely aquaculture, ecotourism, and blue carbon projects.

In the Philippines, LGUs have total autonomy for the management of their municipal waters. Each agreement will run for 10 years (renewable) and define a clear distribution of roles and obligations in day-to-day MPA management. With support from our partner UNDP Philippines, this approach has been officially endorsed by the central government (Ministry of Environment) and the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro.

Blue Alliance Philippines has worked with and on behalf of local government in Calapan City, San Teodoro, Baco, and Puerto Galera since 2020. Our agreements outline our specific responsibilities and underscore our commitment to working closely with Provincial Government and Government Agencies. These include the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Coast Guard, and the Maritime Police.

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The partnership between the City Government of Calapan and Blue Alliance goes beyond mere protection. Blue Alliance’s invaluable support includes the provision of enforcement floating assets, fuel subsidies for enforcement, the recruitment of additional Bantay Dagat personnel. Additionally, it encompasses biophysical assessments of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the strengthening of the capacity of MPA managers, among other initiatives. It also extends into the heart of our community through livelihood programs designed to foster sustainable practices such as the development of crab and sea cucumber hatcheries. Our collaborative efforts also emphasize raisin public awareness through an extensive environmental information education campaign.

– Hon. Mayor Marilou Morillo, City of Calapan

Driving positive impacts through daily action

By collaborating with the local communities and their Barangay (the smallest administrative division in the Philippines) people’s organizations, we are contributing to a sustainable future for North Mindoro and its people.

Blue Alliance Philippines undertakes marine conservation activities, encourages sustainable fishing practices, and actively promotes reef-positive businesses in and around the MPAs.

Our on-the-ground management team proactively monitors and protects natural resources through enhanced compliance and enforcement activities, long-term community engagement programs, science-based approaches, and regenerative projects for environmental protection.

Our impact in the field

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Together, we are united by a shared commitment to conservation, striving to achieve exceptional results at the intersection of marine preservation and local economic development.

– Bonifacio Tobias, MPA Manager

Our MPAs in the region

Our MPAs lie within the municipalities of Calapan, San Teodoro, Baco, and Puerto Galera. The program strives to improve coral reef health by enhancing MPA management capacity and reducing the main human activities that cause degradation of coral reef ecosystems and negatively affect community livelihoods.

© Background image: Grace Catapang

Our four main fields of operation

We work in four fundamental and interrelated fields of operation, and we measure and report on the results we achieve. These are conservation and science, community development, compliance, and sustainable revenue generation.

Science and Conservation
Citizen-Science
Community Development
Community-Development
Compliance
Protection
Sustainable
Revenues
Sustainable-revenues

Science and Conservation

Science and conservation via research and monitoring projects

Community Development

Enabling community development and empowerment

© Photo: Kelda Lund

Compliance

Surveillance and protection by raising awareness, ensuring compliance

© Photo: Kelda Lund

Sustainable Revenues

Reef-positive businesses to create sustainable revenues

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Science and Conservation

Monitoring

We monitor fish and shark populations, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests to:

This is done through Biophysical Assessments on coral and reef fish, mangroves, and seagrass ecosystems to better assess the success of MPAs in protecting marine biodiversity. We also conduct underwater surveys of commercial fish species in monitoring stations inside and outside MPAs. In these bi-annual surveys, we identify commercial fish species (those targeted by fishers), including their count and sizes using the variable distance method. This allows us to measure the success of MPAs in enhancing fish biomass in adjacent fishing grounds, and to understand how they benefit local fishing communities. In parallel, we conduct fish catch monitoring programmes through fish landing surveys and regular interviews with fishers to monitor the health of the fishery as well as getting indicators of fishing effort and use of new gear. Fish landings are also an important way of assessing the bycatch of threatened species.

To measure the success of our MPAs in enhancing fish productivity in municipal waters, we conduct a comprehensive programme of experimental CPUE (catch per unit effort) measurements. The fish catch and size data of reef fishes can help gauge the effectiveness of MPAs in supporting adjacent fishing areas through adult fish movement and, in turn, the positive results of management interventions.  

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Conservation

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Research

Through funder support, we are exploring new methods for monitoring that might help to reduce the need for skilled monitors (which is a challenge in our remote areas of operation) and provide further insights. We partner with local universities and other science-based organisations, such as the University of the Philippines, MinSU and SHARK-MED.

Our work is complemented by reports from our Citizen Science programme, launched in 2023 in collaboration with local dive shops.

Key scientific programmes and assessments include:

Important, Iconic and Threatened Species

To emphasise the challenges faced by marine wildlife within each of our Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), we showcase a range of species categorised as Important, Iconic, and Threatened. This not only enhances awareness within the tourism sector but also aids in the creation of a narrative that vividly portrays the human impact on the marine environment. This, in turn, underscores the importance of Marine Protected Areas.

Conservation success story

Combatting the COTs invasion

Community efforts led by Blue Alliance have saved coral reefs from the crown-of-thorns sea star (COTS) outbreak. COTS is a natural predator of hard corals. However, their overpopulation can cause detrimental impacts on the reefs. Blue Alliance, in coordination with the local government, developed a science and community-based monitoring and mitigation programme to fight the outbreak in Puerto Galera. This has resulted in more than 28,000 COTS collected through almost 1,000 hours of monitoring and collection efforts. With the additional and important help of the dive industry, COTS populations in Puerto Galera have been significantly reduced since the programme of Blue Alliance started. At our last survey in August 2023, no COTs were sighted in Puerto Galera.

© Background image: ScubaPonnie

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Community Development

We work closely with Local Government Units to identify and develop revenue models in the Blue Economy that can increase the long-term resilience of both marine ecosystems and coastal community livelihoods. The community development programs are typically linked to our reef-positive businesses.

  • In our small-scale aquaculture projects, individual households, fishery associations, and village cooperatives are involved in the grow-out and processing of sea products. Our experts work with communities to build capacity in aquaculture and business management.
  • In blue carbon mangrove restoration and conservation, local communities are directly involved in the primary field activities and receive part of the revenue from the blue carbon credits, to be used for community improvement projects.
  • In fishery improvement projects, our teams work with coastal communities to improve the revenues of selected fishers through sustainable practices and improved market linkages.
  • Our ecotourism programme seeks to develop good practices and provides training in tour guiding, hospitality, and visitor management.
  • We focus on job creation, supporting gender equality and empowering women.
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Key community development programmes include:

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Compliance

Our role as official co-management entity is to enhance compliance with applicable legislation and regulations. We do this through surveillance and long-term community engagement programs. One of our major management interventions is to enhance compliance aimed at reducing unsustainable fishing and combating destructive fishing. We carry this out through joint patrolling in partnership with local law enforcement and military authorities, community sea wardens and our own rangers.

In the Philippines, municipal fisheries enforcement is largely carried out by community sea wardens, locally known as Bantay Dagat (BDs). In coordination with local municipalities, we support the BDs through performance-based incentives. The best BDs are selected to become full-time Blue Alliance rangers or Blue Alliance Key Ocean Defenders (BAKODs).

The primary focus of the BAKODs and BDs is to prevent illegal activities, especially fishing, but they also spearhead our mission to remove CoTS, as well as assisting with the installation of demarcation markers, and biophysical monitoring of coral and reef fish. The demarcation of MPAs will be done through deployment and maintenance of highly visible marker buoys on MPA boundaries - these will be color-coded over time to identify tourism, buffer, and no-take zones.

During patrols, BAKOD and Bantay Dagat teams prevent fishing in no-take MPAs, ensuring that these zones are effectively protected from human activities for the benefit of marine biodiversity and fisher communities. They also deter the use of illegal fishing methods and fishing with an unregistered boat in municipal waters.

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If we don't take care of them or establish [marine sanctuaries], the fish will no longer have refuge or breeding grounds for our future generations. That's why it's very important for us to protect our sanctuaries.

– Marion Cepillo, Blue Alliance Key Ocean Defenders (BAKOD)

In collaboration with local and national government authorities, we have enabled our BAKOD and BD teams to enforce protocols during apprehension for MPA and fishery law violations as well as training them in anti-poaching techniques. We have also developed new enforcement strategies to improve surveillance routes for daily seaborne patrolling using our patrol vessels and foot patrols from our observation post and ranger stations. The team is also trained to use new equipment like night vision monoculars and GPS. We are innovating our monitoring and compliance program with EarthRanger. This digital tool allows our BAKOD and BDs to provide real-time updates on MPA and fishery law violations, marine wildlife sightings or strandings

Key compliance support and programmes include:

© Photo credit: Gary Lotter

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Sustainable Revenues

Our goal is for each Marine Protected Area to be self-sustaining by addressing the funding gaps that have historically hindered effective MPA management. Reinvesting profits from reef-positive businesses back into MPAs is a core part of our strategy. We also provide training for community members interested in becoming involved in these initiatives.

A reef-positive business is a solution that reduces specific drivers of coral reef ecosystem degradation and contributes financially to MPA management. Blue Alliance Philippines aims to become self-sustaining through the development of a pipeline of reef-positive businesses in and around the conservation area, in Blue Economy sectors. These sustainable businesses will improve the livelihoods of coastal communities, reduce threats to marine biodiversity, and create tangible revenue streams that are reinvested directly back into Blue Alliance.

Our pipeline of reef-positive businesses includes: 

© Photo credit: Thomas Vignaud

Ecotourism

Through BlueWild EcoVentures, our ecotourism division, we aim to harness tourism as a sustainable means of financially supporting Marine Protected Areas for the long term and to reduce drivers of coral reef ecosystem degradation linked to tourism activities. 

Our approach is founded on four pillars:

• Through our network of resort and dive operator partners we inspire travellers to discover impactful marine travel destinations and experiences, and to share their stories and ours.

• By encouraging travellers to learn more about coral reefs and the threats they face, and by garnering their support, we work to ensure their long-term survival.

• By building tourism based social enterprises that contribute to the rewilding of the ocean by financially supporting effective marine conservation efforts, all the while demonstrating the positive impact that business can have when used as a force for good.

Our work, partnerships, and sustainable travel inspiration is featured on our Dive Mindoro website.

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Aquaculture

Sea Cucumbers and Mangrove Crabs

We are developing community-based mangrove crab and sea cucumber aquaculture projects with the goal of growing sustainable incomes for reinvestment into MPAs and supporting local communities through job creation. The hatchery and grow-out culture for mangrove crabs and sea cucumbers will also combat the overexploitation of wild stocks and help to maintain ecosystem integrity. We collaborate closely with the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

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© Photo credit: Gary Lotter

Blue Carbon

With the Philippines being extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts, conserving mangrove ecosystems plays a crucial role in threat mitigation and adaptation. We are exploring the sale of blue carbon credits through a partnership with the Uba Sustainability Institute.
We are also investigating the use of our aquaculture sites for aquasilviculture—integrating mangroves into fishponds with mangrove crabs and other species as part of our blue carbon programme.

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Meet the MPA Manager

Bonifacio C. Tobias

MPA Manager, North Mindoro, Philippines

Bonifacio is the manager of Blue Alliance, the official entity managing the MPA network on behalf of Local Government Units. He has more than two decades’ experience in managing and implementing community-based environmental conservation projects. Activities encompass marine and terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and resource-management initiatives, social enterprise, monitoring and evaluation, participatory social research and technical research. Bonifacio has written over 25 approved project proposals which have attracted funding from international donor-agencies. Bonifacio has worked with programmes linked to World Heritage Site and Community-Management of Protected Areas for Conservation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science from Palawan State University and a MSc in Rural Development from Western Philippines University.
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Meet the Team

Denmark Recamara

Science Manager

Denmark is a marine biologist and Ichthyologist (fish expert). He brings a wealth of experience, including roles as an instructor and senior research assistant, and a strong academic background with an MSc in Marine Biology.
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Belinda Enriquez

Ecotourism Manager

Belinda possesses a wide range of expertise, encompassing project and operations management; the design of structures, processes, and experiences; and the cultivation of robust partner relationships. As the BlueWild EcoVentures Manager, she focuses on creating sustainable ecotourism programs that effectively integrate marine conservation and community empowerment, ultimately harnessing tourism to sustainably support Marine Protected Areas.
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Clark Ross Bautista

Community and Fisheries Officer

Clark draws upon a decade of fisheries and coastal resource management experience gained in collaboration with Local Government Units. He manages the Blue Alliance enforcement team, ensuring compliance within and beyond our MPAs.
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Christian Manalo

Dive Expert

Christian, an ecotourism enthusiast, combines diving expertise with a passion for marine conservation. His journey has seen him evolve from being a dive store salesman up to supervisory level, forming connections with eco-conscious operators around the Philippines. With 23 years’ diving experience, including 17 years as a PADI SCUBA instructor, Christian teaches people how to dive – and how to safeguard the underwater world. He has also worked as a resort and dive shop manager where he learned hospitality and environmental care skills.
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Theresita (Thess) Tejada

Finance Manager

Thess brings over 30 years’ finance experience from her extensive work with various development organizations, the Government, and diplomatic missions. She ensures sound financial management and sustainability across Blue Alliance’s wide range of projects.
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Jo-Anna Ruth Pilapil

Office Support Staff

Jo-Anna, a Fisheries graduate, brings 5 years of experience from the City Government's Fisheries Management Office. She supports Blue Alliance's science and finance teams, combining administrative skills with her fisheries background.
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Carlos Valino

Community Coordinator

With over 30 years’ experience in environmental conservation and community development in the fisherfolk sector, Carlos channels his expertise into Blue Alliance's alternative livelihood projects, enhancing the wellbeing of partner community members.
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Dara Noreen Teves

Administrative Officer

Dara is a banking and finance graduate with experience in sales and accounting. She combines her expertise in administrative work and finance with her love for the ocean as a freediver.
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Mary Grace Catapang

Communication & Science Coordinator

Grace is the youngest in the team, working as the Communication and Science Coordinator of Blue Alliance Philippines. Growing up in a coastal community in Mindoro Island, Grace developed a strong connection with the ocean and the life it supports. She is a licensed scuba diver majoring in Biology with Specialization in Ecology and Systematics and a Minor in Data Science and Analytics at the Ateneo de Manila University. She previously worked on a research project with the Coral Lab of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC through the fully funded NHRE Program. With her interest in science, visual storytelling, and community engagement, she received an outstanding completion in the Marine and Community Conservation Externship of the National Geographic Society and The Nature Conservancy, where she developed an ArcGIS StoryMap about MPA management. As an early-career ocean professional, Grace hopes to contribute to inclusive science and community-based marine conservation that benefits both the people and the planet.
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Bonifacio C. Tobias

MPA Manager, North Mindoro, Philippines

Bonifacio is the manager of Blue Alliance, the official entity managing the MPA network on behalf of Local Government Units. He has more than two decades’ experience in managing and implementing community-based environmental conservation projects. Activities encompass marine and terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and resource-management initiatives, social enterprise, monitoring and evaluation, participatory social research and technical research. Bonifacio has written over 25 approved project proposals which have attracted funding from international donor-agencies. Bonifacio has worked with programmes linked to World Heritage Site and Community-Management of Protected Areas for Conservation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science from Palawan State University and a MSc in Rural Development from Western Philippines University.
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Blue Alliance Key Ocean Defenders (BAKOD)

The BAKOD teams support the Bantay Dagat (Community Fish Wardens or BDs) in enforcing fishery and MPA laws, ensuring sustainable fishing in 62,000 hectares of city and municipal waters in North Oriental Mindoro.

Connect locally

Connect with us on social media to join the MPA conversation:

Become a Blue Alliance partner and work with us to regenerate coral reef biodiversity and empower the lives of local communities. Would you like to know more? Mail us at connect@bluealliance.earth

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