The coastline of Misamis Occidental is over 160 kilometers long and provides both a home and a livelihood to a substantial portion of the province’s residents, many of whom are fisherman. However, unregulated fishing, coupled with excessive use of dynamite on its shoals and reefs, has threatened the environmental health of Misamis Occidental’s ocean. Declining conditions have lead to lower and lower yields, driving locals to more desperate overfishing in a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental disaster. In order to address both the environmental and economic challenges, the provincial government created the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Development and Protection Program (MOADPP) in 2002. The goal of this program is to market the coastline as an eco-tourist destination to generate funds for the impoverished locals.
With the construction of the Aquamarine Park and the accompanying growth in the local tourist industry, other enterprises have emerged to cater to the needs of visitors, generating further employment for local residents who were previously unable to find work.
The provincial government’s innovators signed an agreement with groups of fishermen to give them seed capital for new businesses, with the agreement that 5% of their profits would go to a trust fund to be used by the province to cover the cost of environmental preservation and tourist development. Revenues from a local hatchery begun in 2004 had already reached 162,109 Philippine pesos by 2005, while income from entrance fees to the Aquamarine Park for the same period was over 430,000 pesos. With a continuously rising income from local enterprises and tourist donations, the Park was able to donate one million pesos from its trust fund to purchase medicines for use in provincial hospitals. In this manner, residents of Misamis Occidental have been able to pool funds with the provincial government’s resources to benefit the larger community in tangible ways.
Two hundred hectares have been set aside for the construction of various tourist amenities, including guest hotels and cottages, a zoo, function halls, restaurants, hatcheries, and a mangrove reforestation area. The plans also include an aquaculture production area and “MOAPY Island,” as well as a dolphin and fish rescue and rehabilitation center.
To ensure successful environmental recovery, the local government has imposed measures to protect Misamis Occidental’s coastline by defending their natural breeding grounds from harvesting and tampering. Those whose livelihoods depended on fishing who did not choose to invest in an enterprise have been retrained to work in various aspects of the Aquamarine Park’s management and daily operations.
In addition to capital from the provincial government and income earned from its various tourist attractions and businesses, the Aquamarine Development and Protection Program has also received funding from the Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID), which provided resources for training families no longer able to rely on fishing for livelihood.