KOTA KINABALU: A total of RM60 million is needed to operate the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), Malaysia’s largest marine park, for its first five years (2017-2021).
WWF-Malaysia, announcing this during a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing with Sabah Parks today, will assist the latter in developing a financial plan which could cover income generation or fundraising strategies, as well as sustainable financing.
The 10-year agreement solidifies the existing cooperation between the non-governmental organisation (NGO) and the conservation-based government body in taking care of the 898,762-hectare TMP.
The TMP, gazetted last year, spans three districts (Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas).
WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma and Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais signed the MoU, witnessed by State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
Dionysius said WWF-Malaysia is committed to co-funding the TMP management and operation office, the TMP regulations development, sustainable financing mechanism and conservation, led by the state government.
“TMP is a global symbol of how we can collectively commit to protecting the environment while local communities continue to live in a sustainable manner.
“People must understand that the gazetting measure is just the first step in a long journey.
“Right now, there are over 80,000 coastal and island folk living in the area. We don’t know how many there will be in the future but the goal is for them to have better life in a sustainable manner,” he said.
WWF-Malaysia Marine Programme’s People and Biodiversity manager Monique Sumampouw said that 85 per cent of locals surveyed indicated that the gazetting measure had a positive impact.
She said the MoU will focus on the protection and restoration of coral reefs, sea grass and mangroves as well as key species like sea turtles, dugong, sharks and commercially-valuable fish.
Meanwhile, Masidi said the gazetting of such parks require political will. Its impact, she said, may not be seen in the short term but will benefit the people in the future.
“I would like to give an example where a few days ago, a massive cleanup was conducted at the Kudat coastline, where many plastic bottles were collected. Surprisingly, some of the bottles came from other parts of the world, even as far as Saudi Arabia.
“So do not think that what we do in TMP only benefits only Kudat and Sabah; it affects people all over the world.
“We should not opt for shortcuts and short-term benefits but make decisions that allow people to prosper, generation after generation.
“I hope that leaders, wherever they are, will do more of what is right instead of what is popular. I hope what we did will encourage others to follow suit,” said the minister.
He also stressed on the importance of being realistic when it comes to gazetting more marine parks.
“I believe the shortest time frame for the next one (to be gazetted) is maybe ten years. I am saying this to keep expectations within limits. There is a lot of work to be done and there are various technicalities involved,” he said.
Masidi had earlier this month said that the government had identified Mantanani Island off Kota Belud and its surrounding areas as the next potential marine park.