DENR "Agos ng Buhay" Program to Set Stage in CALABARZON, Nationwide

Published on Thursday, 09 March 2017 03:40
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DENR "Agos ng Buhay" Program to Set Stage in CALABARZON, Nationwide


"Healthy oceans, healthy people," the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) - Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) stresses the importance of healthy coastal and marine ecosystems in the lives of the people.

The Philippines, as an archipelago, is surrounded by bodies of water such as seas, bays, lakes, and rivers.

In the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) Region can be found a number of water bodies like the South China Sea, Taal Lake and Pansipit River in Batangas; the Philippine Sea, Tayabas Bay, Lamon Bay and Ragay Gulf in Quezon; Laguna de Bay in Laguna and Rizal; and Manila Bay, which drains the watershed areas of the provinces of Laguna, Cavite and Rizal.

Fishing has always been an important source of livelihood for Filipinos, especially for communities in coastal areas. Fish is still the primary source of animal protein in the Philippines with annual per capita consumption at kilograms.

Unfortunately, some small and large-scale fishermen engage in unsustainable fishing practices that result in habitat degradation and fish stock depletion.

BMB records show that nearly 73% of coastal and marine ecosystems are degraded, with cost of inaction estimated at Three Billion Pesos (PhP 3B) annually.


 In response to this, the DENR began efforts to manage and protect the coastal and marine ecosystems and resources in 1993 with the Coastal Environment Program (CEP), and through 2002 until 2016 with the Integrated Coastal Resources Management Project (ICRMP) and the Sustainable Coastal Reef Ecosystems Management Program (SCREMP), both under the Coastal and Marine Management Office.

With these experiences, practices and lessons learned, the Department has designed its latest coastal and marine management approach under the umbrella of its new flagship program entitled Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program or CMEMP.


The DENR Administrative Order No. 2016-26 dated October 17, 2016 defined CMEMP as a "national program which aims to comprehensively manage, address and effectively reduce the driver and threats of degradation of the coastal and marine ecosystems in order to achieve and promote sustainability of ecosystems, food security and climate change resiliency for the benefit of the present and future generations".

SMARTSeas Project Manager, Dr. Vincent V. Hilomen said CMEMP recognizes the importance of the connectivity of all coastal and marine ecosystems to fish productivity. Hence, the program focuses on the management of all coastal and marine habitats which include mangroves, tidal marshes, mud flats, sea grass beds, and coral reefs.

It adopts the ridge-to-reef approach of the SCREMP which takes into account not only the ecosystems within the coastal and marine zones, but also those in the upland and lowland areas.

In CALABARZON, coastal areas can be found in 59 municipalities and cities of the provinces of Batangas, Cavite and Quezon. Among these areas, a few have been selected as pilot sites for the implementation of the program which has commenced at the break of 2017 together with other DENR regional offices nationwide.

One of these sites is the Verde Island Passage and Marine Corridor (VIPMC) in Batangas, considered the “center of the center of marine biodiversity”, and one of the twenty-nine (29) priority areas for the implementation of the Sustainable Integrated Area Development and Management (SIADM) flagship program under the leadership of Secretary Lopez.

Improvements in the New Coastal and Marine Management Scheme and the Potential Impacts of the Program to the Stakeholders

The CMEMP entails improved approaches for a deeper community and stakeholders involvement.

Planning Process and Plan Adoption

In terms of planning, the new program implies 'full community involvement and multi-stakeholder participation' in the development and implementation of MPA Management Plans.

An MPA Management Plan is basically a guide in the protection and management of MPAs which is to be prepared by the concerned local government units (LGUs) and stakeholders, through the technical assistance of the DENR, based on the results of the detailed assessment and mapping of all the coastal and marine ecosystems within an MPA, as well as the perceived needs of the coastal communities.

In the past years of implementing the ICRMP and SCREMP, a number of coastal municipalities covered by MPAs in Batangas, Quezon and Cavite have already crafted their own MPA and Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Plans which they will have to adopt in their Comprehensive Land Use Plans as part of the ridge-to-reef approach, and for an improved management of municipal waters.

However, in CALABARZON, no municipal government has adopted the respective MPA and ICM plans, yet, likely because of deficiency in political will, change of administration, and irrelevance of the policies and activities indicated in the plan, as crafted.

The challenge with the new program would be: how will the Department, as the lead agency, encourage the LGUs to adopt the MPA and ICM Management Plans; and what activities should the DENR undertake to make the plans relevant and engaging to the local communities?

The CMEMP is mainly formulated for the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) MPAs, for which, plans crafted should be adopted by the respective Protected Area Management Boards (PAMBs) composed of LGUs concerned and other protected area stakeholders. But it can also be applied to local MPAs managed by the LGUs, just like in the case of CALABARZON.

The DENR, on the other hand, provides technical guidance and assistance to the concerned LGUs, other National Government Agencies, Academe, and other stakeholders in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the CMEMP activities in their respective areas.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment of coastal and marine ecosystems has always been included in the activities of the previous coastal programs. Although coordination with the LGUs takes place every now and then, the evaluation of the communities directly and indirectly benefitting from and affecting the coastal and marine ecosystems, is wanting.

Hence, the conduct of KAP (Knowledge, Attitude and Practices) survey in coastal barangays covering the MPAs was included in the new program. Through this activity, the present socio-economic condition of the concerned communities will be determined.

The assessment of both environmental and socio-economic situations of coastal and marine areas will result in the realization of the connection of the daily activities and perception of the communities, with the depletion of coastal and marine resources and habitats, thereby, paving the way to preparing a more effective and relevant plan.

Provision of Livelihood

The CMEMP comprises the development of Biodiversity-Friendly Enterprises (BDFE) that involves the conduct of economic activities as well as practices of micro, small and medium enterprises with the local community as prime beneficiaries. The said activity aims to promote the sustainable use of coastal and marine biological resources, and create wealth and value of the same.

BDFE development primarily points toward the alleviation of poverty, the main cause of the illegal undertakings of coastal communities

There is no lying that the previous management approaches were more often than not 'defensive' in nature, focusing on the apprehension of the violators to protect the natural resources. But such scheme may well lead to nothing good in the long run as people will always have to do something to sustain their livelihood needs.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Philippines Country Director Maurice Dewulf said, "environmental conservation is eventually bound to fail if it cannot make a case for the improvement of peoples' lives, especially their socioeconomic status. There must be a profit in conservation."

Dewulf said that BDFE development is a new concept that merges environmental conservation and economic development, and envisions the great potential of the country's natural resources for wealth creation which can address poverty (, 2015).

For this year, BDFE development will be conducted in the VIPMC, a SIAD priority area.

In accordance with the DAO 2016-16, "the provision of these livelihood options shall help sustain the community support on all coastal and marine management efforts."

Capacity building and Campaign Plan

Capacity building activities on MPA management and BDFE development will be conducted, not only for DENR personnel, but also for stakeholders.

Also, a well-designed and catchy Community Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) framework, strategies, and approaches will be developed at the BMB level for nationwide implementation.

Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez has come up with the program title "Agos ng Buhay" which conveys the message that sustainable and effective management of the national coastal and marine biodiversity can resolve the long-term problems of its degradation, and improve the quality of life of the coastal communities.

The DENR has conducted a number of information, education and communication (IEC) campaigns in ages and yet its impact to the community is rather unknown to them. This is another reason that the KAP survey is included in the program -- to identify the level of awareness of the communities on coastal and marine management, and from there, create effective and relevant CEPA schemes.

DENR Undersecretary for Staff Bureaus Demetrio L. Ignacio said that IEC campaign is not only a one-time activity per area and that, it can never be expected that the communities be able to grasp what is being conveyed in a snap.

Program Outcomes Orientation

Even as CMEMP regional targets for 2017 are all set for execution, Undersecretary Ignacio pointed out that the program should have, not only output, but also impact indicators. He said that baseline data on marine and coastal resources and socioeconomic condition of the coastal areas, are needed to determine the overall impact of the program.

He further stressed the important role of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of DENR in managing land-based pollution, and advised the regional program implementers to give priority to coastal and marine zones near mining areas.

Looking Forward

Community participation will always play a vital role towards the success of any program such as the CMEMP. Undersecretary Ignacio said that it takes three stages prior to getting the community sincerely involved in the program. These are: generating awareness, instilling understanding, and gaining genuine concern.

CMEMP has a lot of beautiful things to offer and success is definitely on its way when the program is orderly implemented, in close coordination with the stakeholders.