Australia’s support paves the way for the passage of a policy that promotes marine protection and management and a more sustainable future for the coastal community of Burgos, Surigao del Norte.
As a coastal conservation advocate, Krizelle de la Cruz works with fishing communities on coastal resource protection and management to ensure that marine resources are protected for the communities’ food and job security and for environmental sustainability.
In Burgos, Krizelle and her team were trying to address the problem of overfishing. Overfishing dramatically depletes the fish population in an area, leaving no time for fish to reproduce and creating an imbalance in the food chain. Aware of this threat, local officials began to enforce fishing regulations – until they realized they had no legal basis to do so due to the lack of a municipal ordinance. This held them back from enforcing the regulations.
“Our team acknowledged that having a local ordinance is key to managing fishing activities more sustainably. The policy could also promote accountability for the relevant government agencies and the community involved in managing their coastal resources,” said Krizelle.
Krizelle’s team presented the idea to the Burgos local officials, who generally favor the ordinance. However, the team was confused about the responsibilities and implementation arrangements among the local government unit, the relevant national government agencies and coalitions, and other development partners. Elected officials were also concerned about losing public support as some community members feared that they might lose livelihoods with the passing of the ordinance. For more than a year, the proposed ordinance showed no progress.
While Krizelle knew that the policy needed to be informed further and pushed toward approval and enactment, she was new to policymaking and needed help determining which steps to take to reach that goal. So, she joined a month-long online course on Development Entrepreneurship, which brought together development professionals to learn about the 12 keys to successful policy reform. The course was supported by the Australian Government and The Asia Foundation under the Coalitions for Change program. Through the course, Krizelle also met fellow development professionals working on gender and human and food security who encouraged her to move forward.
“I joined the Development Entrepreneurship Online Course to understand the policy formulation process better,” said Krizelle. “I had very little knowledge on policy, and I’m delighted to have learned how it can be approached in an entrepreneurial way – the course taught me to treat policy like a business “product” that you can continuously innovate and develop,” she added.
Development Entrepreneurship Principle #1: Start by Making Small Bets
Even before participating in the DE Online Course, Krizelle and her team had already started “making small bets” by supporting the Burgos Municipal Agriculture Office in organizing a Coastal Zoning Workshop. They invited local government officials, technical staff, and fisherfolk to the workshop, which became an avenue for all of them to work together to draft the provisions for the ordinance, discuss potential benefits, and identify possible marine areas for protection.
The activity merited the participation of the Vice Mayor, who eagerly joined the break-out groups. Still, the fisher folk led the discussions and recommended which coastal areas could be assigned as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
“What can we do with the officials of the LGU to protect our seas and natural resources?” Vice Mayor Pedrita Dominos challenged the participants during the workshop.
With the help of the Municipal Agriculture Office, Krizelle’s team also collaborated with local government representatives who shared their success stories. They noted the importance of identifying optimal locations for MPAs to increase livelihood opportunities for the communities.
“We decided to expand the MPA northeastward after seeing how viable it can be from the Conservation Priority Marxan Map, which was supported by our local chief executive,” said Renan Golandrina, a fisherfolk from Brgy. Poblacion. “It is for the future generation and my children,” Joel Galos, a fisherman from Brgy. Baybay added.
“If managed well, we are excited to showcase this MPA’s buffer zone as a potential tourism dive site to complement the ongoing development of the Sumyot Cave,” said Municipal Agriculturist Oscar Domiños.
Following the workshop, local officials of Burgos publicly endorsed the establishment of MPAs.
“With the approval of our Municipal Fisheries Ordinance, we hope that the community, especially the fisherfolks, will reap its benefits and adhere and comply with the provisions. As local officials, we commit towards providing a clear and better understanding of the Ordinance as our interventions will not be as impactful if we, as leaders, do not cooperate,” said Hon. Marichu P. Galagar, Sangguniang Bayan Member, Municipality of Burgos.
Development Entrepreneurship Principle #2: Iterate and Improve
Sustaining the momentum of support, Krizelle and her team organized feedback sessions every two months with leaders of fishers’ groups, Sangguniang Bayan members, other civil society groups, and the LGU. Krizelle helped facilitate these discussions – encouraging local officials to present updates on the ordinance and the community members to share their inputs. After a year of these feedback sessions, the group arrived at a draft ordinance acceptable to all.
On the 21st of March 2022, Municipal Ordinance 01 Series of 2022, titled: “An Ordinance Providing for the Sustainable Development, Management, Utilization and Conservation of the Coastal and Fisheries Resources of the Municipality of Burgos, Imposing Penalty for Violation Thereof, Declaring Mandatory Allocation of Funds Therefor, Integrating All Other Ordinances Pertinent Thereto, and for other Related Purposes” was finally passed.
Key features of the Ordinance include: (1) establishing the location and limits of Municipal Waters; (2) establishing production zones for fishing, aquaculture, protection zones, marine protected areas, and tourism zones; (3) establishing allowable/unallowable activities; (4) aligning related development plans to the Ordinance; (5) registration and licensing requirements of municipal fishers, vessels, and fishing gears; (6) establishing and maintaining a registry of fisherfolk; (7) defining strategies for coastal and fisheries resource management; and (8) establishing a multi-sectoral committee to see to the enforcement of the Ordinance.
The Ordinance is significant as it operationalizes how to protect the municipality’s coast and resources. It also pushes for the registration and licensing of fishers, fishing vehicles, and their gears and dedicates a local body responsible for enforcement.
By June, the Burgos Municipal Government had actively disseminated information on the Ordinance, including the marine protected areas, by taking advantage of the celebration of Adlaw nan Burgos (Day of Burgos), the town foundation day.
“I am very grateful for the Australian Embassy’s support for the Development Entrepreneurship program, which inspired development practitioners like me to step out of our comfort zones and pursue policy reform. If not for this learning opportunity, I may not have earned the courage and diligence to continue this policy journey. Much like developing a product in business, policy reform indeed takes determination, diligence, and collaborative effort in the community,” said Krizelle.
“Six months after the fishing ordinance was passed in 2022, more and more households in Burgos appreciated the benefit in regulating fishing via managed areas. To date, a similar ordinance has been passed in the Municipality of Pilar, while another ordinance for the Municipality of General Luna in Siargao is in the works using the Burgos case as a guide,” Krizelle proudly shared.