Dauin, a community of ocean defenders

by Heike onboard the Esperanza

Welcome to Dauin
©Gavin Newman/Greenpeace

Today was one of the most beautiful days af our entire trip in the Philippines. We arrived in Dauin, municipal in the south of the Philippines that runs nine community managed marine reserves. It was a glimpse of how life in harmony with nature can be. We anchored some 500 meters from the shore and already from the ship we could see a crowd of people waiting on the beach.

As soon as we reached the shore in outrigger boats women in traditional costumes came and hung a sort of medal, but made of corn and other seeds, around our necks. I wish we had this custom in Germany, it gives you such a feeling of welcome. From a distance we heard music, it turned out to be a traditional band with a choir. They started to sing a song about seagrass, and it sounded so beautiful and happy my heart swelled with joy.

30 years ago Dauin was an environmental catastrophe. As mayor Rodrigo Alanano tells, more than 50 commercial fishing ships emptied the municipal waters, destroying the coral reefs with their anchors. “People in other parts of the Philippines used to make jokes about us”, says the gouvernour of Negros oriental state, George P. Arnaiz. Today we meet people who are self-confident and proud of what they have achieved together. Dauin has won several prices for its coastal management, and earns 2 million Philippine pesos per year by tourism alone.

The idea is simple: The municipality has declared 10 percent of its waters as marine reserves (the aim is 30 percent). We can see them from the Esperanza, they are marked with white floating chains. In these areas no fishing or boat driving is allowed – but swimmers and divers can enter and pay a little fee. This money is directly used to fund the protection, for example to pay the sea watchkeepers who patrol the reserves 24 hours a day. The amount of fish caught by local fishermen has gone up three times.

©Gavin Newman/Greenpeace

As we walk through the streets of Dauin to the townhall you can see the whole community profits from the reserve and the tourism: The streets are paved, the houses well maintained, all the children well dressed. It is not luxury, but it’s a good living for everybody, provided by the ocean.

In the town hall virtually the whole community is waiting for us. “It is a peak of our success to have Greenpeace stopping here on their expedition around the world”, says mayor Alanano in his speech. Captain Pete is asked to say something, of course, and as always he meets just the right, warm tone: “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to get off the ship and to be welcomed like this. Dauin is a blueprint of how marine reserves should be managed, and that message we will take away with us.” Then the municipal choir sings their local anthem “Dauin Kung Pinangga” (Listen to it – it’s beautiful!), schoolchildren perform a dance.

And Dauin is even heading for more: “We want to have the biggest marine reserve in the whole of the Philippines, 640 hectares”, says governour Arnaiz. I start to think of my nearest national park at home, in the German North Sea, and how the local population opposed it for years and still does. They do not understand what treasure they have been given, and that protecting the environment is also protecting their own future. And here are these Philippine fishermen who organized it all by themselves. Now which is the developing country?

a wedding ritual of the people of the Municipality of Dauin wedding