Coastal Resource Management in the Philippines

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The Philippine Coastal Environment

Coastal Resource Management in the Philippines

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The Philippines is considered a pioneer in the still evolving CRM disciplines. The country’s experience in CRM dates back to the early 1980s, when various sectors, alerted to the growing problem of environmental degradation in the coastal area, began to conceptualize and implement several projects designed to bring about sustainable management and use of coastal resources.

Initially, programs followed the traditional line that resources must be preserved, oblivious of the needs and desires of the communities that depended on them. Seeds of Hope, an authoritative collection of case studies on community-based CRM in the Philippines, notes how the government initially used the "top-down approach" by promoting the establishment of protected areas, "with practically no community involvement."

"This approach did not work," the publication relates. "[C]oral reef areas proclaimed as marine parks continued to be ravaged by fishers and users of destructive fishing methods."

The experience did not come to naught, however, for from it emerged lessons that proved valuable in the development of the now widely accepted community-based CRM. As Seeds of Hope relates, in the mid-1970s, Silliman University, through its research facility on Sumilon Island in Central Visayas, started a program which included "some elements of community participation."

The concept spread rapidly in the NGO and academic sectors and more slowly among government agencies. "Through CBCRM," observes Seeds of Hope, "several protected areas in the Visayas and Luzon were established and maintained by organized communities, notably on the small islands of Apo (Negros Oriental), Balicasag and Pamilacan (Bohol), and San Salvador (Zambales)", which are now recognized by coastal resource managers worldwide for their success in using the CBCRM approach.

The Central Visayas Regional Project (CVRP) in the 1980s was the government’s first attempt to incorporate community organizing in its CRM efforts. This was followed in the early 1990s by two major programs, the DA’s Fisheries Sector Program and the DENR’s Coastal Environment Program.

CRMP's contribution to the still growing Philippine CRM experience was mainly in building the local government's capacity to deliver CRM as a basic service to coastal communities. To do this, the Project harnessed policy initiatives in the last two decades that devolved primary responsibility for CRM to local government units (LGUs). It succeeded not only in building LGU capacities, but also in strengthening support structures to help LGUs perform their CRM mandate more effectively.

The work is not nearly done and must continue, but a momentum has been achieved that can drive CRM in the Philippines to its full potential. New initiatives would do well to keep the momentum, guided by the lessons of CRMP and the other projects before it.

The CRMP experience is documented in two special reports: "CRMP in Midstream: On Course to a Threshold of Sustainable Coastal Management in the Philippines" and "Modeling the Way: Lessons in Developing Capacities for Coastal Management in the Philippines"

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This website was made possible through support provided by the USAID under the terms of Contract No. AID 492-0444-C-00-6028-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID. As long as proper reference is made to the source, articles may be quoted or reproduced in any form for non-commercial, non-profit purposes to advance the cause of marine environmental management and conservation.