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COASTAL MARINE HABITATS OF GUIMARAS

The Marine Affairs Program (MAP) of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, the UP Visayas Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanology, and the UP Press co-published in 1997 a report entitled, Philippine Coastal Marine Habitats at Risk: A Case Study of Guimaras Island. This publication edited by Ricardo P. Babaran and Jose A. Ingles is based on a 1995 study commissioned by the European Union-funded Small Islands Agricultural Support Services Program. This research on the coastal marine habitats of the island province of Guimaras in Western Visayas aimed to provide a baseline reference prior to the implementation of a Community-Based Coastal Resource Management Program.

MAP Convenor and Deputy Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority, Prof. Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla noted in his “Foreword” the dearth of materials on the state of specific areas of the Philippine coastal zone. For him, this publication can contribute to a better appreciation of coastal environments under stress. Hence, it can lead to “a better management of the behavior of organisms primarily responsible for generating unwelcome pressures on the coastal zone and its resources: human beings”. Prof. Lotilla said that an informed public is able to take the necessary measures to reduce the risks posed to coastal habitats.

The research report describes the state of coral reefs, mangrove swamps, and seagrass bed of Guimaras Island as well as highlights the issues and recommendations for the sustainable development of coastal resources, particularly in each of the three habitats. The study found out that available marine resources in the coastal areas of Guimaras Province are already dwindling and being subjected to excessive stresses principally from human activities. Undoubtedly, the rate of abuse of these resources is alarming.

Such condition should encourage all concerned to take stock of what remains of these resources and to formulate a program of action to reverse the trend of declining resources. The conditions that caused the deterioration of the coastal environment of Guimaras are also happening in other parts of the country. This study could be an eye-opener to inspire others to initiate a concerted action that addresses the problems plaguing the Philippine coastal marine environment.

Among the threats to the coastal marine ecosystems of Guimaras that were discussed in the publication are as follows: (1) increasing and dense population; (2) sedimentation; (3) wave impact on reefs and seagrasses; (4) mangrove conversion to fishponds; (5) destructive fishing practices; (6) boat anchor damage; (7) improper tourism activities; (8) pollution; (9) damage to seagrasses caused by small boat navigation; and (10) gleaning or the collection of shells and other edible organisms from the reef area.

The solutions enumerated in the study call for the protection of the environment, the replenishment of the resources, and the regulation of access to resources. These solutions include: (1) sedimentation control; (2) habitat retransformation; (3) mitigation of destructive deep water fishing practices; (4) coastal habitat management; (5) public awareness programs; (6) participatory management; (7) inter-agency policy coordination; (8) research on the utilization of coastal marine resources for sustainable development; (9) adoption of alternative aquaculture practices; and (10) nurturing Filipino values on conservation of coastal marine resources.

An integrated coastal resource management plan for Guimaras Province was also proposed. This is a 10-point plan covering the following aspects: (1) create a province-wide network of protected areas (marine reserves, marine parks, and fish sanctuaries); (2) establish a network of mangrove reserve zones and mangrove stewardship zones; (3) regulate fishing gears on coral reefs; (4) adopt environment-friendly fishing methods; (5) pass ordinances concerning tourism activities; (6) put in place a garbage disposal system; (7) control sedimentation; (8) formulate policies on mining activities; (9) enact laws and policies on protection and use of coral reefs; and (10) conduct a province-wide environmental education program.

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