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Reformulating the National Marine Policy
Jay L. Batongbacal

The National Marine Policy (NMP) of 1994 contains the basic framework for the management of the marine sector. The NMP must be considered with the scattered legislative and executive issuances for the various marine sectors as well as the international agreements that the Philippines has already signed, agreed to, and that have come to force. The 1994 NMP is an official response to the growing awareness of the importance of the marine sector and the ocean environment, stating certain principles and objectives that form the basis of marine policy-making.

These include the concept of archipelagic development as an alternative perspective of national economic management; coastal marine areas as the focal points in managing and promoting archipelagic development; and giving importance to coordination and consultation with affected sectors. The NMP is flexible, recognizing that the field is very dynamic and that certain policies and principles can change depending on time and situation.

The implementing body of the NMP is the Cabinet Committee on Maritime and Ocean Affairs (CABCOM-MOA) that formulates practical and viable policies and addresses various concerns affecting the implementation of the Law of the Sea Convention as well as marine-related matters. The CABCOM relies on the support of the marine affairs research community.

While the NMP and various legislative and executive issuances exist, the governance of the countryís marine areas remains fragmented and uncoordinated. The policy declarations of the NMP are too few, broad, peripheral, and nebulous to provide any effective guidance to government agencies, and completely ignores the high probability of conflict and inconsistency between the sectors that use the marine environment. The CABCOM-MOA itself, under the chairmanship of the Department of Foreign Affairs, concentrates on responses to international incidents, rather than turning to an agenda for policy coordination, management and archipelagic development.

The problem of the marine sector, and impliedly the archipelago, has two central themes ó integration and coordination. Integration refers to achieving on the policy level, a certain balance and prioritization of interests and actions among the sectors using the marine areas. On the other hand, coordination pertains to the harmonized implementation of the policies and programs so that the existence of probable conflicts may be anticipated, prevented, or resolved.

The task of the University of the Philippines is to devote efforts toward the reform process in governance in three areas. First, the formulation of the theoretical framework that will provide the basis for an alternative governance regime that is responsive to the archipelagic character of the country. Second, the creation of the information system necessary to make sound and well informed decisions that will account for the greater complexity and interrelated nature of the problems and issues sought to be addressed by the alternative governance regime. And third, the development of the integrative and coordinative institutional mechanisms needed for policy and decision making.

What is immediately needed is to formulate the new paradigm for Sustainable Archipelagic Development which will form the foundation of all other programs and weave together the various activities into one coordinated whole. This requires the recruitment or development of interdisciplinary faculty specially trained in coastal and ocean management. Interdisciplinary projects must be undertaken to encourage multiperspective approaches to the problems of archipelagic development.

Moreover, since the key element to effective management is an informed knowledge of the marine environment, UPís scientific resources must be updated and expanded. A consolidated inventory and database of information relevant to the coastal and ocean environment must be made accessible. It is also important to have closer, mutually beneficial linkages between UP and other government institutions to promote a free flow of information between them and implement truly relevant and effective reforms.