Understanding the Philippine Coastal Environment
   An Endangered Coastal Environment


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Coastal Habitats
Marine Biodiversity

Compared to some countries in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia and Thailand, the Philippines is surrounded by deep waters ranging from 2,000 meters to 4,000 meters. Its shallow waters are relatively narrow and close to shore. However, with its more than 7,000 islands, the country is supported by large productive areas of diverse marine ecosystems, which provide shore protection and nutrient cycling as well as valuable economic goods.

Indeed, the Philippines is one big coastal community of more than 70 million people. The country’s coastline stretches to more than 18,000 km, and its coastal waters cover an area of 266,000 sq km. Seventy percent of its more than 1,500 municipalities are located in the coastal area, which is home to millions of people for whom the sea is an ordinary, but often little understood, fact of life. Coastal fishing activities account for between 40% and 60% of the total fish catch. All told, the fisheries sector accounts for about 4% of GNP and directly employs over a million Filipinos, more than half of whom are engaged in small-scale fishing. Fish and other marine products supply up to 70% of the total animal protein intake and 30% of the total protein intake of Filipinos. And, with the growth of tourism in the coastal areas, Philippine coastal resources are predicted to become even more economically valuable over time.

But time is not on the coastal communities’ side: Overfishing, over-exploitation and pollution are putting tremendous strain on Philippine coastal resources, resulting in the loss of fishery habitats, water quality and various types of marine life from corals to seagrasses to fishes. Already vulnerable to natural phenomena such as typhoons, cyclones and coastal storms, coastal communities are facing even greater risk from all kinds of unmanaged and potentially harmful human activities. Open access has resulted in over-exploitation of coastal resources -- 11 of the Philippines’ 50 major fishing grounds are overfished: San Miguel Bay, Lamon Bay, Lingayen Gulf, Manila Bay, the Batangas coastline, Ragay Gulf, Moro Gulf, Davao Gulf, Samar Sea, Visayas Sea, and the Pacific side of Bohol. Dynamite fishing, the use of cyanide, industrial pollution, domestic wastes and siltation are destroying the coral reefs. Mangrove forests are being converted into fishponds, beach resorts and residential and industrial estates, further reducing the natural habitats of the various fish, shellfish and crustaceans found in the coastal areas. The result: declining fish catch, which has already led to a situation where most fishing activities are becoming economically non-viable. Fishery experts say that in many areas around the country today, the limits of sustainable fishing has already been reached or even exceeded.


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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.