BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi — One of the priorities laid out by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) for the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary (TIWS) during their meeting on 19 July 2022 is to hold a series of capacity development activities to fully operationalize the Board and further intensify management and conservation of the Protected Area.

Minister Akmad A. Brahim of the Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Ministry (MENRE) chaired the second official PAMB meeting for TIWS as interim members underscored the urgency and importance of formalizing the membership for the Board.

In the meantime, the Board follows what’s stated in the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems (E-NIPAS) Act, Section 9, which stipulates the composition of the PAMB with the DENR Regional Director under whose jurisdiction the Protected Area is located (MENRE Minister in the case of Turtle Islands in the BARMM) chairing the Board. More than a year after the TIWS was turned over to the Bangsamoro Government through the MENRE last 23 May 2021, Minister Brahim said during the recent meeting that the MENRE has always been strongly committed to continue protecting and conserving the Protected Area.

“The biodiversity, flora and fauna, and the habitat that’s inseparable to the survival of the species relying on the Turtle Islands shall remain protected and conserved,” Minister Brahim said as he emphasized efficient collaboration in ensuring the success of PAMB’s tasks.

The PAMB meeting, as facilitated by MENRE Bangsamoro Director General Atty. Badr E. Salendab, added to the main agenda the source of funding for the activities related to Turtle Islands protection. The Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Research and Development Services (BERDS) Director Mohamad Ali R. Dimaren assured that the Ministry included in its FY 2023 budget proposal the funds that would be used for capacity development programs and activities necessary for the effective management of the sanctuary.

Attending in full force during the PAMB meeting, the Ministry also had Tawi-Tawi Provincial ENRE Officer Jonel I. Mohammad Monel and Forest Management Services (FMS) Director Abdul-Jalil S. Umngan to support Minister Brahim. Director Umngan, who served as Acting Chairperson during the turnover of the TIWS to BARMM in 2021, said that “our challenge is how we as stewards of Allah can sustain the momentum of continuously working hard, hand in hand to conserve and protect our very dear Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary.” In addition, Umngan shared that under the Integrated Bangsamoro Greening Program (IBGP), the FMS has been implementing a mangrove reforestation. For the Turtle Islands, he said that they have already carried out 10 hectares of reforestation in the islands of Boan and Likkud Bakkaw to complement the management of the Protected Area.

Included in the meeting proper, the responsibilities of the Turtle Islands’ Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) were turned over by Community ENRE Officer of Tawi-Tawi 1st District Saido U. Espiliro to Ecosystems Management Specialist Japrin Hadji-amin, who swore to fulfill his duties, with highest commitment, to protect the sanctuary of sea turtles in the province.

With those mentioned above, PENREO Monel, during his closing message, reflected on the potential actions that the Board Members were able to lay out to fully operationalize the PAMB. He said that “these [actions] have enlightened how they promote congenial relationship and connectivity among different sectors to further deepen our understanding on the Turtle Islands. I encourage and enjoin all to continue this productive collaboration in moving forward.”