The Philippines adopts a highly decentralized approach to coastal management. Each municipal authority exercises management powers and responsibilities over their 15-km municipal waters. While this puts the responsibility in the hands of the people who are most invested in the resource, management by such small areas can lead to inconsistencies and “loopholes” in the protection of the larger environment. Over the past few years, under the guidance of CCEF, municipalities in southeast Cebu have been learning to work together to scale up the geographic scope of their managed areas and pool scarce management resources by expanding from a single-municipality management system to a much broader cooperative inter-municipal management approach. Such cooperative undertakings focus on activities that jointly address the common resource threats among the municipal jurisdictions, such as degradation of key coastal habitats, overfishing, and dwindling fish stocks.
It all started in 2005 when seven municipalities in southeastern Cebu jointly signed an agreement to share financial and other relevant resources to establish “cluster-wide” coastal law enforcement operations in order to counter commercial fishing encroachments in their municipal waters. The Southeast Cebu Coastal Resource Management Council became a highly successful endeavor that continues to this day. It was developed by the towns to share resources and collaborate to address a wide range of coastal management concerns.
CCEF has consolidated the rich lessons learned from the very successful experiment in southern Cebu, and continues to advocate this model of cooperation in Danajon Bank, Siquijor, and all the areas where we work. CCEF will usually begin in a new area with a single-community-based CRM model, then gradually scale up, pulling together nearby communities to form a cluster of municipal collaborations in order to address broader issues that cross town boundaries. The result is marine resource management that addresses problems at the scale of the local ecosystem, not just within the town.
Most recently CCEF has been assisting the Danajon Double Barrier Reef Management Council (DDBRMC), which brings together concerned local governments and stakeholders in northern Bohol, to create a unified coastal resource plan to manage the entire double-barrier reef ecosystem. Workshops offered by CCEF and attended by key officials like Jose Evardo enable leaders from the various communities to participate in active discussions of current fisheries assessments, habitat management initiatives, and gaps and challenges experienced by the local governments. CCEF believes that such activity helps to strike a practical balance between the efficiency that comes from shared management and the commitment that comes from local responsibility.
CCEF has learned from over 10 years of facilitating CRM in the southern Philippines that harnessing local knowledge and engagement together with shared resources will produce the most effective and coordinated site-specific projects. Such efforts lead to strengthened institutional capacity and uniformly enforced environmental laws and fishery harvest practices over time.