Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P Paje cited the various initiatives of the government in coastal management even as he said that the Philippine hosting of the week-long Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections (GLOC), including the 3rd Intergovernmental Review (IGR-3) Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities on January 23-27, 2012 at the EDSA Shangrila Hotel in Mandaluyong City provides an opportunity to showcase the country’s accomplishments in coastal and marine resource management.
“These initiatives are meant to sustain the productivity and health of our coastal areas which are now in various stages of degradation due to human-induced stresses that are caused by land-based activities,” Paje said.
According to him, the increasing demand for bounties from the seas, fueled by the development and economic needs of a growing population and the export market, have severely depleted the country’s coastal and marine resources, resulting in the alarming rate of habitat loss or degradation for biodiversity and poverty for many people.
Paje traced the history of coastal management in the country with the establishment of marine protected areas by local government units (LGUs) in response to the needs of coastal communities.
On a national level, the initiatives include the passage of various legislations and policies on the sustainable management of coastal and marine resources such as the following:
Among the country’s prominent legislations and policies related to coastal and marine resource management are the following:
Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act 7160), devolving the basic powers of coastal resource management to the local government units (LGUs), within 15 kilometers of their respective municipal waters
The National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (Republic Act 7586), which has led to the declaration of: 30 marine protected areas (MPAs); species protection zones as sanctuaries for turtles, fish, dugong, whales and whale sharks; and marine reserves, parks or sanctuaries to protect vulnerable habitats, depending on the amount of extractive and non-extractive use allowed within the declared areas
Fisheries Code of 1998 (Republic Act 8550), the primary legislation for fisheries and aquatic resources
Presidential Proclamation 1801 of 1978, identifying tourist zones where any development projects or construction is prohibited without prior approval from the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA)
Executive Order 578 of 2006, declaring a national policy on biodiversity directing government agencies to integrate and mainstream protection, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into their respective policies and programs, especially with regard to the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor and the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME)
Presidential Proclamation 1028 of 1997, which declared the entire Sulu-Celebes Seas as an integrated conservation and development zone; created the Presidential Commission for the Integrated Conservation and Development of the Sulu and Celebes Seas (PCICDSC); approved an Integrated Conservation and Development Plan and adopted the conservation plan for the SSME
Executive Order 533 of 2006, declaring Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) as the national management policy framework to promote sustainable development of the country’s coastal and marine environment and resources, and which mandated the preparation of a National (ICM) Program led by the DENR
An Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project
According to Paje, his agency, together with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and 80 municipalities across eight partner provinces, are now on the fifth year of implementation of the Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project or ICRMP. The overall goal of the project, according to him, is to enhance the management of the coastal resources in the identified sites, with the end in view of increasing the income of the coastal communities.
The ICRMP’s four components are aimed to strengthen policies and implementing institutions; implement a ridge-to-reef management and conservation of coastal and marine resources; promote environment-friendly and sustainable livelihoods through enterprise development and income diversification; and provide social and environmental services and sustainable livelihoods.
Restoring historic Manila Bay
With the identification of Manila Bay as one of three sub-regional sea areas or pollution hotspots in the East Asia region, the Global Environmental Fund, the UN Development Programme, and the International Maritime Organization or GEF/UNDP/IMO Regional Programme on Building Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia, also known as PEMSEA, launched together with the Philippine Government the Manila Bay Environmental Management Project (MBEMP) in 2000.
The project aims to plan, develop and manage the marine and coastal resources of this historic bay as well as those of its surrounding areas. Since the Bay’s numerous problems cannot be solely addressed by government, the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy serves as a common framework that guides all concerned stakeholders in addressing both environmental and economic development issues in the bay area.
To mainstream the initiatives of the MBEMP to the three surrounding regions – Central Luzon, CALABARZON, and the National Capital Region – the DENR established the Manila Bay River Basin Coordinating Office in 2007. The office was later reorganized into the Manila Bay Coordinating Office to fully implement the Operational Plan for the Manila Coastal strategy.
With the Pasig River basin identified as source of around 60 per cent of the pollution load of the bay, the DENR has also embarked on partnerships with the business or industry sector, local government units, other agencies and stakeholders to clean up tributaries.
The DENR, through the Environmental Management Bureau and the Laguna Lake Development Authority, have also strengthened their water quality monitoring, ensuring the compliance of industries to effluent standards.
The world’s center of marine biodiversity
With the world’s center of marine biodiversity known as “Coral Triangle” falling within the exclusive economic zones of six countries, namely: the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste or the CT6 formed a multilateral partnership called the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF). The initiative safeguards the region’s rich marine and coastal resources through protection from overfishing, destructive fishing practices, unsustainable coastal development, pollution and impacts of climate change.
The Philippines organized its own CTI-CFF National Coordinating Committee (NCC) in 2009 to provide guidance for the overall implementation of the country’s National Plan of Action or NPOA. The NCC is led by the DENR and the DA-BFAR, and its members include representatives from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Finance, the National Economic and Development Authority, the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, non-government organizations, academic institutions and the business sector.
The NPOA has six cross-cutting themes in implementing the goals and targets of the CTI-CFF. These include research requirements; enabling policy; planning based on practices and lessons learned; capacity-building; enforcement of environmental laws; and information and education campaigns.
The Philippines is clearly not a neophyte in the field of coastal and marine resource management. It has had over thirty years of experience in coastal management. With its 36,289 kilometers of coastline as one of the longest in the world, and with its abundant marine and coastal resources serving as a source of livelihood for 70 per cent of Filipinos, it is only imperative for the country to seek for and implement better ways to manage the ecosystem, enhance fisheries, and arrest rapid deterioration of valuable coastal habitats.