Working in Paradise: Palawan

We are working in paradise, and I’m not just referring to the aesthetic beauty of Palawan, although it is rivaled by only a few places around the world.

Mondays aren’t so bad when the sea is your office!

Palawan has been called the “last frontier” of the Philippines, with incredible Rainforest, Mangrove and Coral Reef (35% of Philippines’ reef) cover. Whilst there are still many environmental threats, and logging is a largely controversial issue here, it has a positive reputation for local and provincial government interest in conservation.

I’d heard that in Palawan, people are aware of the importance of maintaining healthy eco-systems and over the island, there have been many local and provincial government moves to protect environmental assets.

The truth in this has surprised me, in the best possible way. I can only base my conclusions on the quaint town of El Nido, but it feels like we are preaching to the choir, and they want to hear more. It’s never been easier to work with stakeholders and the local government. Everyone has welcomed Green Fins with open arms.

The other day, Jess, Joe, staff from the El Nido Foundation and I went round the Snorkel Operators (the snorkel industry is much more prevalent here than the diving) to gauge their interest in Green Fins (and get some local stakeholder consultation skills under our belts) to help protect the reefs. We realised how much people were already doing, and how much they wanted to do, and I heard phrases like:

“Yes of course, we need to protect the coral. It is our business”

Boom. Perfect. Here, have all my love and affection.

Local stakeholder consultations

The El Nido Foundation (ENF), a local NGO that has a large number of successful community and environmental projects under it’s humble belt, is testament to the attitude here. When we’re walking down the street, you can feel the respect people have for ENF staff. Introducing Green Fins is easier with them because people already support the work that they do.

One the best trends that I’ve seen here is the large and long-lasting influence a certain suite of Resorts has had here. Set up as eco-resorts, they seem to have employed everyone over the age of 30 at some point in the last couple of decades and the environmental training is still shining today. When we’ve asked how people know about environmental protection already, the answer is almost always, “I learnt it at the Resort”. Some of them haven’t worked there for over ten years, and the lessons have not only stuck, but have shaped the attitude of an entire community.

When you work in environmental education, you don’t always see the fruits of your labour. In fact you rarely do. It’s hard to measure your successes. You just have to trust that the message got through to someone and is making a difference somewhere. Experiencing people’s attitudes in El Nido has reinforced to me the absolute magic of education, and it makes me trust that the work we are doing will have long-lasting positive influences with the people we interact with.

There are hurdles, don’t get me wrong. There are still a host of issues to deal with, but everything seems achievable when you are working with stakeholders that already care.

And it’s a good feeling 🙂

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