It took more than just hard work and bitter sacrifices from the stakeholders of Agsalin Marine Protected Area to conserve what little that they have in an 80-hectare piece of coastal waters of the municipality of Gloria, where for ages they enjoyed aesthetically while gleaning what they can for a day’s decent meal. Guided by their strong resolve to protect the Agsalin marine protected area (MPA) and equipped with modest support from their local government unit, the Provincial Agriculture Office Fisheries and CRM Division, and partner non-profit organization Malampaya Foundation Inc. (MFI), the Barangay Agsalin MPA was hailed as the best managed MPA in the country during the biennial Para El Mar Awards held in Iloilo City on October 19 to 20, 2017.

Besting over a hundred of entries out of more than 1,500 listed MPAs in the Philippines, the Agsalin MPA finally proved its worth to be on the top post. The result of the independent evaluation by the Marine Protected Area Support Network revealed that Agsalin’s strong points on management and biophysical indicators gave it a distinct contrast to other finalists, a trait that only a few MPAs in the country are able master and sustain. The bounty of Agsalin’s underwaters proves that effective management is a key despite challenges constantly posted by those who continue to circumvent the Agsalin MPA policy.

Since 2013, in partnership with the Gloria LGU and PGOM-PAGO, MFI has supported Agsalin MPA and its Fisherfolk Association with: a) technical assistance for improved marine protected area (MPA) management through capacity-building and mentoring; b) Support for Bantay Dagat in the form of trainings, safety gears, insurance, and rice incentive; c) Conservation incentives for fisherfolks; d) Regular biophysical monitoring together with the Oriental Mindoro Resource Monitoring Team; e) Underwater clean-ups and COTs collection; f) Regular information education campaign for community, youth and schoolchildren; g) Maintenance of boundary markers; h) Livelihood and income diversification projects; i) Skills trainings and employment, self-employment generation for coastal families; and j) MPA guardhouse.