Lessons from Philippines MPA Management: Social Ecological Interactions, Participation, and MPA Performance
International interest in increasing marine protected area (MPA) coverage reflects broad recognition of the MPA as a key tool for marine ecosystems and fisheries management. Nevertheless, effective management remains a significant challenge. The present study contributes to enriching an understanding of best practices for MPA management through analysis of archived community survey data collected in the Philippines by the Learning Project (LP), a collaboration with United States Coral Triangle Initiative (USCTI), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and partners. We evaluate stakeholder participation and social ecological interactions among resource users in MPA programs in the Palawan, Occidental Mindoro, and Batangas provinces in the Philippines. Analysis indicates that a complex suite of social ecological factors, including demographics, conservation beliefs, and scientifically correct knowledge influence participation, which in turn is related to perceived MPA performance. Findings indicate positive feedbacks within the system that have potential to strengthen perceptions of MPA success. The results of this evaluation provide empirical reinforcement to current inquiries concerning the role of participation in influencing MPA performance.