Establishing the First Locally Managed Marine Area on the Northern Busuanga Coast

Latest update May 2, 2019 Started on September 17, 2018

The Banua locally managed marine area in Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines seeks to innovate new ways to include local communities in low volume/high quality ecotourism to be net positive to the ecosystem. Utilizing both philanthropic and distributive models for tourism development commercial activities within no-take marine sanctuaries will generate well paying jobs, increase food security and rehabilitate severely damaged coral reef ecosystems.

September 17, 2018
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In The Field

Please help us clear the beautiful beaches of Busuanga, Palawan of plastic garbage that is killing marine life. We have launched a gofundme campaign to buy an industrial sewing machine and enough materials to start a program to recycle tens of thousands of single use plastic containers and styrofoam collected from the beaches around Busuanga, Palawan by grinding them up and making confetti stuffing for sofa cushions, day beds, and pillows to be covered with used sail cloth materials. Any donation, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated, and will help create jobs to reduce poverty. Win win win!


Spotted eagle ray and a message.

Beautiful ray but a heartbreaking message.

Observing marine animal behavior at a distance with drones.

Surfers are valuable contributors to marine conservation and potentially could be doing much more as the sport grows in popularity.

Celebrating Christmas with US and Filipino families. Grateful for new friends and relationships.

Location identified for new marine monitoring station. 21 green sea turtles spotted within a single 10 minute drone flight within one 1000 square meter area inside the reef. It appears they congregate in this area to feed, but we found numerous turtle body parts indicating that they are being hunted and butchered in the jungle nearby for there meat and shells by migrant fisherman.

All the more reason to set up a 24/7 monitoring station with the M2 Radar from the Anthropocene Institute to guard against illegal poaching in this hot spot for marine life


Just recently started following your expedition and I will be watchful as I live in a region where Tourism also has an high impact in marine life.

Sorry for the late response guys. Nuno I used a big zip lock back to keep the controller dry on the SUP and also only went out on really calm days and was really careful. Controller stayed in a waterproof backpack until I got to the area I wanted to film. the sat on the board and used my feet in the water for balance while operating. Drone can actually pull the SUP at 1-2knts !


The Coral Triangle Conservancy (dba Reeph) joins the National Geographic’s Open Explorer program. Together with OPENROV we will pioneer new ways to use the Trident underwater drone for marine monitoring and commercial services to fund marine sanctuary operations. Thank you David and Eric of OPENROV and Schmidt Marine for your time and generous donations to Marine Conservation in the Philippines!


First Ocean test of the Open ROV Trident Drone. Maricaban Bay, Busuanga.

It's amazing the quantity of marine life you can find just below the surface when the place is well taken cared for. I wish you the best of lucks for the expedition.

In The Field

Low cost seafloor habitat exploration from a Stand Up Paddleboard after dark alone in 100m depth a mile offshore using the Trident Drone from OPENROV. Yes please!

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I will also use a SUP to carry my Trident at times, but I didn't thought of operating it from the board. I think I'll give it a try!
How do you protect the controller?


First test of the Trident drone in a swimming pool in Batangas.

Earth Day Reeph Summit 2018 Workshops:

A . New models for eco-tourism development that contribute to marine conservation

  • Locally Managed Surf Glamping. The Condo Hotel model to support cost of operating ecosystem sized Marine protected Areas.
  • Large Marine Animal Watching tours
  • Mermaid Fantasy Tours

B. Creating a private marine sanctuary and building climate change resilient coral ‘Reephs’ using renewable energy

C. Sustainable lifestyle practices for better health and wellness


• Pete Bethune – State of the Natural world, wildlife enforcement, and where we go next. • Scott Countryman- Climate change, coral reefs, and the Reeph EGG program • Fiona Faulkner- Plastics in our oceans. The scope of the problem and solutions. • Enrico Andreini - Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture • Dr. Brooke Porter- Surf tourism to drive the expansion and funding of marine sanctuaries in the Philippines.

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Expedition Background

Presence of ecotourism as a deterrent to illegal and destructive fishing.

Our NGOs marine monitoring station in Northern Palawan has seen a 73% drop in large marine animals in the past 5 years and there is no tourism on the island or even a small hotel for at least 10 miles. Tourism isn’t killing the wildlife in this location, it’s a growing population of migrant illegal commercial fisherman and local inhabitants using destructive fishing methods with very little management of a fragile slow growing natural resources.

In the ‘do nothing’ scenario this stretch of coral reef continues to get over fished by a small group of fisherman using unsustainable methods with no short or long term benefits to the community, no jobs created, no nursery for fish and coral to help repopulate the rest of the island, no awareness campaigns, no capacity building, no participatory education, no skills training, etc.

With no enforcement of well written laws, beach front land within the entire ancestral domain of the Tagbanua sits unused often next to a beach covered with marine plastic and harvested by wandering squatters for all trees and wild animals of any food or commercial value. The Tagbanua do not want to sell their land to land developers but have very little capital or skills to guard the natural assets of their land or operate high quality small scale ecotourism operations. They are seeing a boom in tourism around them but are not participating in the economic growth.

The subsistence fisherman along this coast have been disenfranchised for decades by rich land owners grabbing up their prime beachfront land often at very low prices during times of distress. They have decided not to sell any more property to outsiders and land can only be sold between people of the community. No proxy land ownership or hoarding of land is allowed. Land is the major source of wealth that parents can give to their children. So there are hundreds of miles of tropical beach front property in the highest ranked island in the world for tourism quickly being depleted of all wildlife without management.

In 2004 we discovered a world class surfing wave at this intersection of currents in the Mindoro Strait. For the past 8 years our NGO has slowly been building trust and acceptance with the community and now we think the time ready to expand operations and distribute benefits of an MPA/Ecotourism project.

The Banua MPA project will invite hundreds of skilled paying volunteers to help rehabilitate the natural regenerative powers of 20 hectares of coral reef inside a no take marine sanctuary destroyed by decades of over fishing and destructive fishing practices. As an added incentive volunteers and donors to the program will have exclusive access to the surfing wave and coral nursery for Scuba diving.

Technology will be highly leveraged for monitoring of vessel activity and baseline assessments of fisheries and habitats over time. The technology platform will also enable hundreds of thousands of people to visit and follow progress in near real time over the internet without having to physically travel to the remote location.

This program is the catalyst to create a shift in practices that results in compounding net positive contributions to the ecosystems in a network of similar marine protected areas covering hundreds of kilometers of coastline in this area.

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