Nature gifted Misamis Occidental with 162 kilometers of coastline dotted with shoals and reefs. A huge part of the population calls this coastline home, and heavily depends on the bounty of its waters.
Unbridled fishing coupled with the use of dynamite, however, has threatened the waters by the very people who rely on it for survival. These led to even lesser yield, trapping the fishermen in a vicious cycle that threatened to destroy the waters while still mired in poverty.
In 2002, the provincial government created the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Development and Protection Program (MOADPP). The goal is to convert the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park as an eco-tourism destination and generate funds.
Two hundred hectares were set aside to house various amenities, including guest hotels and cottages, a mini zoo, function halls, restaurants, hatcheries, and mangrove reforestation area.
There is also the so-called “MOAPY Island” which serves as a dolphin and fish rescue and rehabilitation area, and an aquaculture production area.
The local government imposed measures to protect the natural breeding areas of fish. Those who were no longer allowed to harvest the waters to prevent overfishing were trained in various aspects of the Aquamarine Park management and daily operations.
The Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID) also funded livelihood activities that provided families with alternative sources of income.
Other commercial enterprises in support of the growing tourism industry brought by the Aquamarine Park also led to the employment of local residents who were previously unable to find work.
Groups of fishermen were given seed capital on the agreement that 5% of it will go to a trust fund that the province will use to cover the cost of preservation and other activities.
Revenues from the hatchery reached P162,109 from 2004 to the present. Income from entrance fees for the same period has reached P430,160. With a continuously rising income, the park was able to donate P1 million from its trust fund to purchase medicines for the use of all the provincial hospitals.
“There is money in protecting the environment,” said Governor Loreto Leo S. Ocampos. “We just have to be creative.”
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 2005 Galing Pook Awards.