Tubbataha marine park rangers win int’l award | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Tubbataha marine park rangers win int’l award
Rangers Jeffrey David and Noel Bundal in Tubbataha with their patrol boat
Tubbataha marine park rangers win int’l award
Rangers Jeffrey David and Noel Bundal in Tubbataha with their patrol boat

The men guarding the country’s premiere marine protected area and natural park are getting the recognition they deserve.

Last July 26, in an online award ceremony broadcasted around the world, the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) marine park rangers were given the International Union for the Conservation of Nature–World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN-WCPA) International Ranger Awards.

The awards have been given annually since 2020 by the IUCN-WCPA in collaboration with the International Ranger Federation, Re:wild, Conservation Allies, Universal Ranger Support Alliance (Ursa), IUCN US and WWF Tigers Alive Initiative, and are meant to “highlight … the extraordinary work that rangers do in protected and conserved areas worldwide,” the IUCN-WCPA website states. The awards also hope to improve ranger capabilities, raise awareness about their crucial work in conservation and share their unique stories.

The four rangers of the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO)—Segundo Conales Jr., Noel Bundal, Jeffrey David and Cresencio Caranay Jr.—were awarded “for dedicated service and commitment as marine rangers.”

“Based on a remote island in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the ranger team, all local community members, lives in isolation for extended periods, far from their families and from support,” read Ursa program manager Olga Biergus, who presented the online award. “They have persevered in the face of COVID-19, personal problems, typhoons, injuries, sickness and threats. Alongside marine research and monitoring, and assisting and educating visitors, the team works tirelessly to intercept illegal fishers and voluntarily assists in the education and rehabilitation of offenders. As a result of their work, initially resistant local communities have now been inspired to support the park.”


Tubbataha marine park rangers win int’l award
Rangers Cresencio Caranay Jr. and Segundo Conales Jr. at the TMO office in Puerto Princesa

The rangers guard and patrol the park 24/7, and their work under protected area superintendent Angelique Songco has resulted in a dramatic reduction in illegal activities, preserving Tubbataha’s unique biodiversity.

The award comes with a $10,000 cash prize to support the rangers’ conservation work. The rangers of the TMO, who are permanently designated to guard the Philippine marine treasure and Unesco World Heritage Site from a ranger station in the middle of the Sulu Sea, where the 970-square-kilometer park is located, lead a composite team that includes rotating members from the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard and the municipality of Cagayancillo, home of the park.

Ranger David cited his colleagues in his acceptance remarks, presented in a video during the awards. “I am so proud because even if we are isolated for most of the year in the middle of the Sulu Sea, we are not unseen and unappreciated; the international community recognizes our contributions to nature conservation,” he said in Filipino.

The Tubbataha Rangers join other winners of the 2023 IUCN-WCPA International Ranger Awards from all over the world, including three other teams: the 10 members of the Biological Corridor 3 Ranger Team, Bhutan; the five members of the Royal Belum State Park “Menraq” Team, Malaysia; and the nine-member Desniansko-Starohutskyi National Nature Park Ranger Team, Ukraine.

“Masaya po! (I’m happy),” declared Conales about the award; he has served as a ranger for 24 years. “Because they appreciate what we are doing in the TRNP, this will be a step [toward] getting Tubbataha recognized all over the world,” he added in Filipino. Conales says the rangers are planning to use their prize money to buy solar panels and a refrigerator for their station, where they rotate for two-month shifts.

Supporters of Tubbataha are planning fundraising efforts to help complete the new ranger station, currently being constructed to replace the dilapidated 23-year-old former station, so the rangers can be safe in a new home.

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