El Nido Municipal Tourism Office, in partnership with El Nido Coastal Resource Management Office and U.S. Peace Corps, launched the Reef Watch program on January 8, 2011. The move aims to minimize the impact of the fast growing tourism industry to El Nido’s fragile eco-system. Aside from the natural culprits such as Climate Change and Crown of Thorns [COT] outbreak, the reefs are dying because of illegal fishing and uncontrolled tourism activities such as the overcrowding in El Nido’s snorkeling sites.
Reef Watch team has 5 environmental law enforcers whose task is to implement solid waste management ordinance, gather Crown of Thorns [COT], monitor boat anchorage and teach tourists about snorkeling ethics. Their training began with an orientation about the project’s mission at Shimizu Is. on January 8, 2011, followed by Training on COT Gathering on February 2 and Mandarin lessons on February 4 & 5. Lecture on Basic Ecology is scheduled on March 17, 2011. The Reef Watch Training Program will be completed with a training on First Aid and Rescue Operations on May. Currently, the Reef Watch Team guards and cleans the islands daily. Every week they conduct COT gathering and underwater clean-up.
In view of adding more manpower to the program, the Municipal Tourism Office invites tourists and community members to volunteer. There are already 3 foreign volunteers who went with the team, 1 from Taiwan, 1 from Germany and 1 from Canada. The office also hopes to involve the Philippine Coast Guard [PCG], Philippine National Police [PNP] and the Naval Special Operations Group [NAVSOU] in future Reef Watch operations. [CRM Council, El Nido]