Guest Author - Rachel Meneses-Ponce
Tubbataha Reef is the Philippines’ biggest protected marine area. Located in the Municipality of Cagayancillo in Palawan Province, Tubbataha Reef was declared as the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park in August 1988. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, expanded its boundaries in 2006. Thus, from its size of 82,000 acres it is now 239,000 acres or about 130,028 hectares.
The almost untouched atoll reef has lagoons and two coral islands. Uninhabited by humans, Tubbataha Reef is home to diverse marine life that includes endangered species. To date, some 500 species of fish can be found here and about 350 species of corals which according to studies are in existence for several hundred years. Almost ninety per cent of the Philippines’ coral species can be found here. Tubbataha Reef is also home to Manta rays, sharks, sea turtles, whales, barracudas, seabirds to name a few species.
The beauty and the richness of the ecosystem within Tubbataha Reef are just two of its characteristics that make it priceless. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared Tubbataha Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1992.
Conservation of Tubbataha and other heritage sites of the country are foremost to Filipinos. However, the Filipino people through its Philippine Government are open enough to allow tourists, both local and foreign, to enjoy the beauty of nature’s gifts to the Philippines. Measures were taken to ensure that these treasures are protected.
In the case of Tubbataha, the Department of National Defense was tasked to provide protection of its environs from harmful human activities (poaching, illegal fishing, harvesting of corals, etc.). The ecosystem, marine life and technical aspects in preserving its natural habitat were placed under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources together with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.
Dubbed as one of the best diving spots in the world, the area open to tourists can be accessed only through a boat. Close coordination with the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park management is highly required before one is allowed to set sail. To help maintain the park, visitors are charged with conservation fees. Visitors are also advised to book early. The best months to visit is from March to June. These months are peak summer months in the Philippines. It is the time of the year where waters are calm, the skies are clear and weather is relatively sunny. Take note though that in recent years, the weather has somewhat changed. The Philippines has been experiencing weather disturbance (typhoons, incessant rains) on these so-called summer months.
To continue to enjoy the sights and other attractions of Tubbataha, everyone is enjoined to cooperate by following the rules and regulations instituted by authorities to preserve it. Let us all be responsible citizens of the world – let us all join together to help preserve what many consider as one of the last frontiers of the world.