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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
May, 2002 Vol.5 No.5


Based on paper presented at the Provincial CRM Festival: Provincial Governance Moving Ahead in CRM, 20-21 February 2002, Marriott Hotel, Cebu City, Philippines -- By Antonio T. Kho, Governor, Province of Masbate

(Full text of this paper and other papers presented during the Provincial CRM Festival may be downloaded here.)





he Province of Masbate, composed of twenty municipalities and one component city and a political and corporate unit of government, is a predominantly fishing province. All of its municipalities and city, and 270 out of its 550 barangays, are located along the coast. More than two-thirds of the people live in coastal barangays. With a coastline extending to 968 kms, and marine waters spanning more than 4,000 square kilometers*, the province is blessed with a rich marine environment that has long sustained its people.

The islands of Masbate lie exactly in the center of the
Philippine archipelago

Masbate has 39 islands and islets surrounded by some of the Philippines’ major fishing grounds – Masbate Pass, Asid Gulf, Samar Sea, Sibuyan Sea, Ticao Pass, Burias Pass and the Visayan Sea, among others. Its coastal and marine areas host a wide diversity of marine life species. Fish, hard and soft corals, and other invertebrates are in abundance. Coral resources are abundant, and some islets are actually coral reefs. Corals are still abundant along the shorelines of Ticao Pass. At Busing Island in Burias, the coral reef is bare during low tide. Wetland areas cover three percent of the provincial land area.

Monreal, Ticao Island: Masbate’s ragged shoreline
stretches to 968 kms, its municipal waters cover
10,000 square kilometers (A. Sia 2001)

But, like many other fishing provinces in the Philippines, Masbate is facing the imminent loss of these valuable resources.

A matter of survival
Masbate’s problems are not unique: habitat destruction caused by illegal fishing practices and uncontrolled shore land and foreshore development, overfishing, and in a few areas, pollution. But, with nearly seventy percent of the total population directly dependent on fishing activities for livelihood, the economic and social impacts are severe. In the last decade, the province has seen an increased employment shift to the fishing sector as farmers are pushed to the coasts from their farms by such diverse causes as insurgency, depletion of land resources, and insecurity of land tenure.

For us in the Province of Masbate, taking the path toward sustainable coastal development through coastal resource management has been more than an exercise of political will. It was, in fact, a necessity. We took the journey because we had to, because it was crucial to the economic survival of our province.

The journey began in 1996 when we worked on our Provincial Physical Framework Plan or PPFP. The state of the environment was used as a springboard for policy recommendations, investment and action plans contained in the PPFP. The plan was approved on June 9, 1999 (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1.

Provincial initiatives leading to the formulation of the Masbate Provincial Environment Code

On June 15 of the same year, the private sector also initiated efforts to highlight the environmental issues and challenges that our people face. This was soon followed by the formation of a multi-sectoral Ecology Group.

Embracing coastal resource management
The Provincial Government’s first link to Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP) was established in August 1999 through an Orientation-Seminar on Coastal Resource Management. To strengthen this link, we formed the Provincial CRM Core Group composed of government workers from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Provincial Agriculture Office, Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO), Environment and Natural Resources Provincial Office (ENRO), and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board).

With the assistance of CRMP, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), DENR, and other government line agencies, our initial focus on fisheries development has slowly expanded to a more holistic and integrated coastal resource management program. The Provincial CRM Core Group is trained by CRMP to promote coastal management as both a framework and program of development among our local government units, and to coordinate all coastal management-related activities being undertaken by various agencies and organizations in our province. Over the last three years, the Province has allocated over 5 million pesos in coastal management activities, including participatory coastal resource assessment conducted by our CRM core group in 12 local government units. As a result of this, we now have among our municipalities and city a strong focus on CRM, with at least sixteen of our LGUs supporting and implementing CRM activities.

In search of an integrating mechanism
At the outset, however, we realized that while it was necessary to implement specific interventions that directly address the most urgent resource management problems, we needed to look at our coastal resource problems within a systems and strategic management context. We saw the multi-faceted nature of the brewing crisis in our coastal communities, and concluded that, to avert it, we needed to integrate and coordinate our resource management and conservation efforts in the context of the many different development and program initiatives within the province. We realized that this was critical to ensuring that our CRM efforts would be sustained and produce our desired goal of promoting the economic and social welfare of our coastal communities.

With help from CRMP, we came upon the policy mechanism that we hope would develop our capacity to implement our plans and programs: the Masbate Provincial Environment Code of 2000 (MPEC 2000).

MPEC 2000 provides the framework of norms, standards and requirements we are committed to follow in order to accomplish our goal to enhance the quality of life of every Masbateño consistent with the principles of sustainable development and sustainable stewardship of nature. It is a remarkable document, not only for its substance but also and more importantly, for the manner by which it was formulated and adopted.

A participatory process
The MPEC 2000 is the product of four provincial conferences on environment, sectoral consultations, reviews and revisions, and public hearings (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2.

Key steps in the formulation of the Masbate Provincial Environment

The first provincial conference on environment was held in June 2000. This was soon followed by activities that led to the first and second drafts of the environment code. On July 13, 2000, I issued Executive Order No. 13 creating the provincial oversight committee and sectoral technical working group for the formulation, installation, and implementation of the Masbate Provincial Environment Code (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3.

Committee and technical working groups responsible for the formulation, installation and implementation of the Masbate Provincial Environment
Code, created through Executive Order No. 13

The second provincial conference was held in August. After review by the sectoral technical working group, the second draft was presented to the public in thirteen public hearings. The public hearings turned out to be a painful awakening for us. We’ve had our tension-filled moments of passing the buck and finger-pointing. But we’re happy to say that we managed to transform them into moments of reflection and acknowledgment that we, as a people, are responsible for the degradation of our environment, for the decline in the natural productivity of our ecosystems, and for the deterioration of our very quality of life.

Fig. 4.

Venues of public hearings where the draft Masbate Provincial
Environment Code was presented to the public

Institutionalizing coastal management
A major cause of concern was the state of our coastal environment. We heard such diverse issues as extraction of shellfish in rivers, the use of compressors in marine waters, the employment of child laborers in beach sand extraction. As a result of the public hearings, we now have three key provisions for the institutionalization of CRM as a program and framework of development of the Province. These are:
  • The creation of the Provincial Office on Environment and Natural Resources (POEM), which will formulate and implement a comprehensive plan that contains the programs, strategies, activities and policy guidelines on the sustainable management of fisheries, aquatic, and water resources. The POEM, which will include a Coastal Resources Management Division, will also be tasked to maintain and update resource management databases, such as the Municipal Coastal Database, for planning, monitoring and evaluation purposes, and coordinate with national government agencies in the implementation of its mandate as provided in MPEC 2000. So far, with the help of CRMP and Lubid Foundation, we have already undergone two workshops to facilitate the full operationalization of this Office.
  • The formulation and adoption of the Masbate Provincial Coastal Resource Management Framework for eventual integration into the Provincial Physical Framework Plan, to serve as a guide for our coastal municipalities and city in undertaking, among others, the delineation, establishment, management and maintenance and protection of their municipal waters. Last February 7, NAMRIA visited Masbate to certify 12 technical descriptions of delineated municipal waters in our province. We also hope to ensure the integration of CRM in the comprehensive land use plans of our municipalities and city. CRMP has promised to help us with this and hope that by May this year, we would have drafted a coastal resource management framework for integration in our PPFP for planning period 2003-2013. We will be working closely with the city government and CRMP to institute a system of harbor management in Masbate Harbor.
  • The declaration of the provincial government’s policy to “strongly and irrevocably support governments and communities of coastal municipalities in the full exercise of their powers, duties and responsibilities towards proper management of our municipal waters”, and exercise “its full powers through the provision of leadership, technical assistance, conducive policy, and effective law enforcement for the conservation of our marine resources.”
Everyone’s responsibility
That MPEC 2000 is a product of a genuinely participatory process of legislation gives us hope that its enforcement will be a responsibility that we in the Provincial Government will continue to share with all Masbateños.

Drafting of the Masbate Provincial Environment
Code. Inset: Former Provincial Board Member
Herminio Valdemoro, sponsor of the Code

(A. Sia 2000)

As stated in a manifesto culled out from the issues, concerns, challenges and aspirations ventilated during the public hearings:

Alarmed by the continued deterioration of the global and our immediate environment,
Perturbed by
                The unsustainable pattern of consumption and production;
                The loss of our mountain ecosystems due to deforestation, quarrying, unsustainable mining practices, soil erosion and landslides;
                Soil degradation and loss of productivity;
                The overexploitation and general decline of our seas and ocean;
                The befouling and over-extraction of our freshwater resources;
                Air pollution;
                The irreversible loss of biodiversity;
                The deterioration of our quality of life;
                Increasing threats to human health;
                The worsening waste problem;
                The widening gap between rich and poor;
                Escalating resource use conflicts;
Aware that we are living on a borrowed planet;
And cognizant of our place and responsibility in the community and the world
We commit ourselves to care for and nurture the Earth, our only home, and especially our beloved Masbate, and abide by the intent and spirit of the Masbate Provincial Environment Code, so that, by living in harmony with Nature and all of God’s creations, we may achieve our common vision of a healthy environment and sustainable development for the present and furture generations of Masbatenos.
…[W]e pledge to work together that the provisions of the Masbate Provincial Environment Code be enacted and implemented in full according to the letter and true intent of the law.

The real importance of the Masbate Provincial Environment Code and its formulation process is our sense of collective ownership for it. We are responsible for it. No one sector of society is going to make it happen, no one barangay, no one government office. It’s all of us.


*Figure from DA-BFAR. (Note: The municipal waters of the Province of Masbate have recently been delineated based on the definition of municipal waters under the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 and in accordance with the guidelines set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order No. 17-2001. Based on the results of the delineation, the municipal waters of the province are estimated tocover a total area of 10,000 square kilometers.)

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