Experts, LGUs discuss impact of human activities to Philippine coastal resources

Scientists from Japan and the Philippines met with members of the local government and government agencies in the Philippines to discuss the impact of the damage brought by human activities to the country’s coastal resources.

The activity, held in Bolinao, Pangasinan, was part of a 5-year research program called “Coastal Environment Conservation and Adaptive Management under Local and Global Environmental Impacts in the Philippines” or CECAM. The research is a collaboration among universities in Japan and the Philippines supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Science and Technology (JST).

Bolinao, Pangasinan, along with Boracay Island, Laguna Lake, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Banate Bay in Panay, Iloilo, and Naawan and Laguindingan in Misamis Oriental are the project study sites whose biodiversity is affected by natural and human activities.

Dr. Miguel Fortes, CECAM project manager, said the research program is meant “to assist decision makers in the Philippines on the economic value of managing our coastal resources.” He added that a regional forum is needed to discuss next steps on conserving Bolinao’s water resources.

The research project also aims to map out an Integrated Decision Support System (IDSS), a science-based approach in forming policies on environment management under CECAM.

During the discussions with LGUs, scientists reported that “massive fish kills since the early 2000 harmed the marine environment and fishing industry in Bolinao.” Bolinao is one of the Philippines’ main producers of milkfish.

This incident prompted the LGU of Bolinao to reduce fish pens from 1,000 to 435, which is below the maximum carrying capacity of 544 as prescribed by the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute. Despite this, fish kills still occur in Bolinao. By incorporating an updated and comprehensive data gathered through CECAM, researchers and policy makers are planning to enforce a new ceiling for the number of fish pens to protect marine resources.

Dr. Maria Lourdes SD McGlone, Project Director of CECAM, also noted that caretakers of these structures tend to overfeed the fish to quickly fatten the stocks. However, the accumulation of uneaten feeds have also polluted waters and adversely reduced the oxygen that the fish need to survive.

CECAM is part of the “Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development” (SATREPS), established jointly by JICA and JST. Among others, it aims to address global issues through international research by Japanese researchers collaborating with their counterparts in developing countries.

Dr. Fortes further cited the need to protect the sea grass areas in Bolinao to improve water quality. The report recommended transferring giant clams to coral reef areas, their natural habitats, instead of sea grass-zones.

To date, Bolinao local government has initiated giant clam gardening as part of its tourism program.

Other attendees to the activity were stakeholders from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and Asia Pacific Network on climate change.

About JICA:

JICA is an agency of the Government of Japan responsible for implementing the technical cooperation, grant aid and yen loan programs of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries such as the Philippines. JICA is the world’s largest bilateral aid agency with about USD10.3 billion in financial resources and a network of more than 100 overseas offices around the world.

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Science experts meet with LGUs, gov’t agencies to discuss impact of human activities to PH coastal resources (PDF)