The Relevance of Governance Institutions in Marine Protected Area Design and Management: Lessons from Northeastern Iloilo, Philippines

Pepito Fernandez, Jr.


The experience of the Philippines on decentralized marine protected area (MPA) management can provide an instructive purview of nature-society processes and politics of scale in a post-colonial and tropical marine fisheries setting. This paper examines and analyzes the comparative advantage and limitations in adopting government regulation, community-based initiatives and co-management arrangements (i.e., rules) in designing and implementing MPAs to meet conservation and livelihood goals. The theoretical discussion will be enriched by providing relevant contextual factors (i.e., biophysical setting, community attributes and institutional setting) from secondary literature and social science field data gathered from March to December 2005 in various coastal municipalities in Northeastern Iloilo Province, Philippines. The study site contains 17 MPAs established between 1994 to 2004 with diverse backgrounds and profiles, and are governed by various alliances (state and/or non-state actors) in different scales (i.e., local to international). The paper will argue that no single institutional arrangement is likely to be effective in addressing all the circumstances surrounding MPA design and implementation. But in the milieu of a depleted natural resource base, and the continued deterioration of the livelihood and health of poor people, environmental protection of MPAs and municipal fishing grounds of subsistence fishers should be prioritized by various actors and policy networks.

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