Sustaining the Tropical Coasts of the Philippines


By Victoria Schlesinger

Come September, as the Siberian winter sets in, species of shore and wading birds begin a southern migration in search of warmer climates, some traveling as far as Australia.

Their long path, known as the East Asian Migratory Flyway, passes over much of the Philippine Islands and their 18,000 km of shoreline.

Unfortunately, the coastal habitats of the Philippines, which act as feeding and roosting grounds for the migrants, are in serious jeopardy due to pollution, development, and unsustainable fishing practices.

In the past several decades, the Philippine coastal ecosystems have begun to suffer and diminish noticeably.

Unsustainable practices, such as dynamite fishing and sodium cyanide poisoning, illegal fishing and fishpond development, extraction of coral and white sand, pollution, and the conversion of coastal ecosystems into developed or farmed areas are a few of the primary reasons coastal resources are in such dire straights.

Borocay Island Philippines
Borocay Island Philippines

As these practices continue, resources become increasingly scarce and local fisheries report that fishing is no longer an economically viable income. Over one million Filipinos are employed in the fisheries sector–and at least half of these partake in small-scale fishing. If coastal resources continue to diminish, a long-practiced way of life could change for many.


The Coastal Resource Management Program (CRMP) was formed to tackle the issues of coastal resource destruction in the Philippines. Working in partnership with USAID and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, CRMP’s goal is to bring resource management techniques to 11% of the Philippine coastline.

To achieve their goals they must enlist the participation of local communities, governments, and scientists. CRMP projects extend into at least six major areas of the Philippines and include the creation of resource maps, enforcement of local conservation laws, assessment of coastal resources, coastal clean-ups, training programs, seminars, and unification of ordinances.

Sustainable Coasts and Responsible Tourism

The development of ecotourism on Olango Island, Cebu, is also among CRMP projects. The island has long been a center of tourism, renowned for its bird watching and expansive beaches. In winter (September to November) and spring (February to April) the migratory birds trekking the East Asia Migratory Flyway such as plovers, red shanks, and egrets can be spied roosting and feeding amidst the foliage and arcing roots of the island’s mangrove; at least 77 species pass through the area.

CRMP has assisted the local community in capitalizing on this natural phenomenon by helping to create the Olango Birds and Seacape Tour. Local guides and naturalists have devised a day of Olango activities for travelers: they begin by circling the island via boat, talking about seagrass gardens and small-scale fishing; then go inland to discuss regional culture and tradition. The remainder of the day is spent in a paddleboat within good viewing range of migrant birds during their evening feeding.

Developing eco-tourism is one means of easing the environmental and social pressures faced by Olango Island, but other projects are also under way. Youth have organized to assess where future sustainable enterprises can best be undertaken, and the Suba Women’s Group has begun to create new sources of income and means for generating pride in the community.

It is only through efforts such as these, and the awareness of travelers, that the devastating effects of coastal erosion in the Philippines and elsewhere can be reversed.



Coastal Resource Management Project – Philippines
5/F CIFC Towers, J. Luna cor. Humabon Sts.
North Reclamation Area, Cebu City 6000, Philippines
Tel: (63 32) 232 1821 – 22; (63 32) 412 0487 – 89
Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-1-888-1823
Fax: (63 32) 232 1825

The Seacape Tour


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