Volunteers for Environmental Governance [VEG] funded the Training on Community-Based Crown of Thorns [COT] Gathering in El Nido. The project was spearheaded by US Peace Corps, represented by Lia Cheek, in partnership with El Nido Coastal Resource Management Council, represented by Mr. Eduardo Lorenzo, and El Nido Foundation Inc. The project started on November 4, 2010 and ended January 14, 2011. There were 107 participants who came from barangays Masagana, Corong-Corong, Teneguiban, Pasadena and Buena Suerte.

There are other US Peace Corps volunteers who helped in the project from November 4-15, 2010. They were Katie Supler from Morong, Bataan, Charlotte Marks from Romblon, Romblon, Bryan Jacobs from Camarines Sur and Ryan Goehrung from Taytay, Palawan. They also joined the COT Terminators, a task force created by the CRM council to eradicate the COTs, in their dive operations in Caoayan Is., Caverna Is., Malbinunga Is., Mitri Is., Tres Marias Marine Sanctuary, Ubugon Cove and Dilumacad Is.

Aside from COT Gathering, community members learned basic ecology, facts about pollution and other threats to the reef eco-system. The lectures included the benefits from protecting the eco-system. At the end of the lectures, the participants were given an examination wherein they answer in the form of poetry, song, drama, dance, facial expressions or just a simple explanation.

El Nido is currently suffering from COT outbreak. From 2008 up to present, the COT Terminators already destroyed 115,000 COTs. Tough funds and available divers are limited, the CRM team is still hopeful that the involvement of the fisherfolks would turn the tide on COT Terminator’s side. [Arvin Acosta, LGU]