Negotiating Stakeholder Agreements for Conservation: The Case of Tubbataha Reefs, Philippines

  • Edgardo Tongson


Many conservation projects fail because local stakeholders share a disproportionate burden of the cost arising from a no-take zone compared to benefits accruing to global and national stakeholders and more powerful groups. Conflicts arising from the establishment of marine protected areas are usually caused by outside interests colliding with local interests and priorities. Ensuring fishers who will lose access to fishing grounds will be able to negotiate and obtain benefits in return for their losses is key to gaining their support to no-take provisions of a marine protected area. The case of establishing an offshore marine protected area in the Tubbataha Reefs, in the center of the Sulu Sea, Philippines, offers a practitioners' perspective in reconciling competing interests based on the sharing of costs and benefits that all stakeholders consider satisfactory and equitable. User fees from diver groups and grant payments from outside donors that supported local livelihoods and park operations offer lessons in cost and benefit sharing. The experience highlights the importance of generating stakeholders' agreements based on cost and benefit-sharing as a platform for conservation actions.


marine protected areas; stakeholders; Tubbataha; coral reefs; marine biodiversity; conservation