The Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power project off the coast of Palawan in the Philippines operates in one of the most biologically-diverse areas of the world. It is known as the Coral Triangle.
This region, which stretches from the Philippines to New Guinea, is home to more fish and coral species than anywhere else on the planet.
But these are under threat.
Natural phenomena such as storms can destroy the corals. At the same time, increasing urbanisation in coastal areas and poor waste practices compound pollution and can lead to the harmful build-up of silt. One of the biggest threats to the coral is over-fishing and illegal fishing through methods involving dynamite and cyanide.
Now a programme founded and implemented by the Malampaya Foundation, of which Shell Philippines Exploration (SPEX) B.V. is a member, is helping local communities to conserve and manage local marine resources, while simultaneously enhancing livelihoods. This is known as an integrated ‘ecosystem services’ approach.
Setting aside areas for protection and rehabilitation
Working with communities, local governments and agencies, the Foundation has helped to establish and strengthen the management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which communities help to enforce and protect. Some fishing areas, for example, are now set aside as protected areas where fishing is prohibited to help rehabilitate habitats and regenerate fish stocks. Fishermen can still operate in other areas but on a restricted basis and under the careful monitoring of a group in the village.
The marine environment is regularly monitored and “reef watch teams” monitor the health of coral reefs. These teams include local fishermen and other villagers who have been trained through the Foundation as licensed scuba divers and reef checkers. They monitor new coral nurseries, where rescued coral fragments have been moved to elevated nursery beds to help them recover.
Nonetheless, many challenges confront the programme such as continuing encroachment and illegal activities.
Providing alternative livelihoods
With restrictions on fishing, the Foundation is helping local communities identify and adopt alternative livelihoods and sources of income.
Coastal communities are recipients of community-based skills training in different trades to help spur employment and self-employment.
Families are also boosting their income through improved animal husbandry skills and livestock raising. For decades they were raising pigs, chickens and goats using traditional methods. Now through the foundation they have learned environment-friendly and more profitable ways to do so. Wives of fishermen and other women in the community have received training in areas such as sewing, food processing as well as other grooming and wellness skills.