Malampaya Foundation Inc.’s report by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees was delivered during today’s Annual General Meeting:
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT: 2020 AND OUR 15TH YEAR
You have heard and it has been said countless times that 2020 was certainly a “unique” year. For all the challenges the year presented to the world, it was not different for Malampaya Foundation.
We started the year with a relief drive in early January due to typhoon Ursula which hit Oriental Mindoro on Christmas day of 2019. Just as we concluded the relief activity in the municipality of Bulalacao on January 10, 2020, Taal erupted two days later on January 12, which launched another relief drive. Just as we were ending the relief efforts in early March for Taal victims seeking shelter in Batangas City, the COVID ECQ lockdown came. From there, we entered more apocalyptic times as everything halted, the economy shut and even our partners in the most remote places were not allowed to leave their homes. We re-aligned funds to carry out yet another relief and rehabilitation support to all our partner communities due to the resulting economic crisis.
In mid-May after the strict ECQ, implementation of programs was difficult with restrictions and requirements needing to be complied prior to gaining access to our program areas. More bureaucracy on the ground had to be dealt with to enable mobility of our staff and keep our partners focused on program goals in the midst of an ongoing plague.
Come October-November 2020, successive typhoons named Quinta and Rolly hit Oriental Mindoro and Batangas and wreaked havoc anew. We launched another round of relief and long-term rehabilitation support to our partner communities there. Two weeks later, flooding hit Metro Manila due to Ulysses and severely affected some of our Metro Manila-based staff. We thought at one point: is there an end to this?
Despite the unfortunate series of events, allow me to enumerate some positive outcomes of 2020:
Marine Biodiversity Conservation
New approved and legislated marine management zones in Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape, El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, San Teodoro, Gloria, and marine protected area (MPA) expansion in Isla Verde, Batangas brought our program area coverage to 335,276.5 hectares by end-2020, up from 329,627 hectares the previous year. We renewed six (6) and signed one (1) new conservation agreements. Coral rehabilitation research was kicked off in rubble-dominated areas of program sites in north Palawan, adopting an enhanced approach from a combination of existing techniques from various groups as presented in the Reef Rehabilitation Manual and Reef Restoration Guidelines of Edwards, A.J., Gomez, E.D. (2007).
Despite the challenging year, MFI managed to facilitate community level engagements and our partner Community Organizations pushed forward their conservation commitments by enforcing their MPAs, monitoring the impacts of coral bleaching, collecting over 8,500 Crown-Of-Thorn individuals, and planting some 15,000 trees. The 4th Cycle of Seasonal Closure in Oriental Mindoro was not spared from the challenges of the commercial fishing sector. Nonetheless, it was successfully implemented from December 15, 2020 to January 25 of 2021 and gained further support from municipal fisherfolks due to its contribution to artisanal fisheries production. All coastal municipalities in Oriental Mindoro highlighted the significant increase in the abundance of juvenile fishes and landed catches after the seasonal closure.
Under String-of-Pearls, we managed to restock 1,655 individual juvenile giant clams Philippines’ true native Tridacna gigas, 22 juveniles of Tridacna squamosa and 1,100 juvenile Abalones. Prior to year-end, we were able to spawn in-situ a record 132+ million of the native Tridacna gigas, a continuing legacy of our former colleague, the late National Scientist for Marine Biology Dr. Edgardo Gomez. We launched Adopt-A-Shell, an online fundraising project for the sustainability of String-of-Pearls. We capped the year with multiple success with the approval of a new 1,000-hectare fisheries management area in Gloria, and the Bulalacao MPA in Coron winning Best Community-Managed MPA at the first PEARL Awards of the Palawan Provincial Government.
In the span of eight (8) years, MFI’s Marine Biodiversity Conservation Program successfully established productive working relationships with its partners. MFI owes much of its humble contributions in the field of marine resources management in Northern Palawan and Verde Island Passage to the coastal communities, provincial and local government units, and national government agencies who were similarly steadfast in co-implementing a program that has so far managed to surpass by 10-folds its original target in conservation area coverage. By building on the strengths of various stakeholder-groups, the program partners managed to help address the needs of policy makers and resource users to maintain the momentum of a marine conservation program that is guided by the rigors of social work and science. The legacy of our partners will mark our contribution and the worth of our investment for this program. To our partner community organizations, it will be the source of sustenance from their productive seas.
Socio-Economic Improvement Programs
As poverty is a common problem in our program areas, socio-economic improvement programs make up a significant percentage of our annual investments through our employment, self-employment generation programs and social enterprise development projects. We have been maximizing economic opportunities in the areas as well as abroad to help our countrymen provide for their families and become productive citizens.
By our 15th year last year, Bridging Employment through Skills Training (BEST) logged 9,540 vocational scholar graduates. I am happy to note that our BEST graduates’ starting pay rates range from 50% to 150% more than the poverty threshold of the country. For self-employment generation programs Sanayan sa Ikauunlad ng Kaalamang Pangkabuhayan (SIKAP), 5,756, and Galing at Negosyo Dulot ay Asenso (GANDA), 4,081 are benefitting from skills and tools acquired. All three had slow hiring and application rates in 2020 due to delayed trainings and the local+global lockdowns, but has historically performed an average of 85%-90% the last ten (10) years.
Under Enterprise for Conservation, from which about 1,140 souls are benefitting from 90 ongoing enterprise projects, most suffered big losses and negative growth in 2020 due to the crisis. To add insult to the injury, twin typhoons Rolly and Quinta that passed through Mindoro and Batangas in Q4 2020 added physical damages to many enterprise infrastructures and assets, necessitating additional support in rehabilitation. I am happy to note though that a number of our partner community people’s organizations/associations continue to obtain monetary and material support directly from national agencies, with some even winning recognitions due to exemplary enterprise performance despite the crisis.
Under our university scholarship Malampaya Sustainable Development Scholarship, the end of 2020 brought us a total of 47 graduates in undergraduate and post-graduate levels in fields of engineering and environmental sciences since 2015. The Malampaya Clinical Laboratory and Punlang Katutubo Native Trees Nursery suffered setbacks from the lockdowns but quickly recovered and adapted to the new normal in 2020. The clinic logged a service count of 828 for free doctor consultations and 446 for various lab services. The nursery managed to deliver 1,500 Philippine native tree seedlings quarterly as committed to our main partner REII and likewise provided the same native species to our other important partners at the Provincial Environment Office and the Batangas City government.
The road ahead is not easy but I have seen the resiliency of our staff and entire organization and we will continue to provide the support necessary to work with our partners and communities, with the Almighty’s hand of guidance and protection in the years ahead.