Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
colbartn.gif (4535 octets)

Field Project Assessment
Coastal Resources Management and Ecotourism: an Intersectoral Approach to Localizing Sustainable Development, Ulugan Bay, Palawan, Philippines

Date of
Site visit: 10th to 15th November 2002
Assessment completed: 21st November 2003
conducted by
  1. Field project summary www.unesco.org/csi/pub/info/ulu13.htm
  2. UNESCO 2002. An ecological assessment of Ulugan Bay. Palawan, Philippines. CSI info 12, UNESCO, Paris 46 pp
  3. UNESCO-UNDP-Puerto Princesa City, 2000. Coastal resources management series, Ulugan Bay, Palawan Island, The Philippines. Published by UNESCO Jakarta Office.  
    Vol 1 Fazi, S., Flewwelling, P. 2000.  Ecology, culture and socio-economics, 218 pp
    Vol 2 Felstead, M. 2000. Master plan for community-based ecotourism,  277 pp
    Vol 3 David, L. and Fazi, S.  2001. An integrated management model. 193 pp  

Discussions, meetings and field visits:  

Meeting with assessment team and Ms. Gerthie Mayo-Anda of ELAC

Visit to Barangay Buenavista and small working group meeting  with Evaristo Arguellis, Allan Daganta, Edgardo Daganta, Laureano Dalisat

Meeting with indigenous peoples group at Buenavista

Visit to Barangay Tagabinet and small  working group meeting with  Ariel Cayaon, Wilson Ortega, Leonardo Ortega, Felina Abella  

Visit to Sabang – Cabayugan and meeting with Community Tourism Association  

Meeting with Council Members and Youth Council Members at Macarascas  

Meeting with City Agriculturist Ms. Melissa Macasaet, and Tutu Almonte, Puerto Princesa  

Meeting with City Tourist Office, Ms. Melinda S. Mohammad, Puerto Princesa

Meeting with Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme Compact Program Ms. Eloida Racelis

Meeting with United Nations Development Programme, Ms. Angelita Cunanan, Manila  

  • Unavailability of key program implementers during the assessment, particularly Martin Felstead and Stefano Fazi, to put evaluation team findings into perspective

  • Several languages were spoken during community consultations (e.g. Tagalog). The team could not speak directly with the stakeholders

  • Recent (October 2002) Barangay elections had resulted in new Barangay councils, thus many of the discussions were with people who were not necessarily involved in the project from the beginning  

Field Project Assessment

This field project, which started in 1996, has focused on community-based activities, in particular a master plan for community based sustainable tourism, sustainable fish farming and  environmental education for youth and training.  Many of these activities have been conducted in conjunction with projects funded by other agencies, e.g. the United Nations Development Programme.  No attempt has been made to separate the different initiatives for the purposes of this assessment.

The sixteen characteristics, used to define ‘wise practices’, are used here to assess this field project. A qualitative scale is used as follows:  

None: The field project activities to date do not comply with this characteristic and/or the characteristic is not relevant.
Slightly: The field project activities to date have begun in some preliminary way to satisfy  this characteristic.
Partially: The field project activities to date have gone some significant way towards fulfilling this characteristic.
Fully: The field project activities to date have gone the full way to complying with this characteristic.  

This assessment was based only on the activities undertaken to date and does not include those planned for the future.

Have the project activities ensured long-term benefit?  

Slightly (3)

The paralegal and basic ecology training in particular and all training in general may provide long-term benefit, but are not providing tangible outcomes yet. The processes of changing environmentally destructive attitudes and of developing skills with which to solve environmental problems are slow ones, so success will be achieved gradually. Consequently, tangible indicators are really not available nor are they to be expected immediately following educational programming. However, only when grassroots organizations, local communities and the private sector are trained can they be active allies for planning, action and decision-making.  

Marine resource-related project components such as crab fattening and experimental fish farming were carried out and later abandoned, because of unresolved problems such as predation by sea otters, theft by other community members, and uncovered costs related to construction, operation and maintenance of holding facilities.  

The initially expected tourism-related long-term benefits were not achieved due to unexpected events - the Las Palmas/Palawan tourist kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf and  the recent (October 2002) Bali bombing. While the local tourism market still seems to provide opportunities, the foreign market collapsed and is recovering very slowly.  

During the planning period, the communities agreed that tourism could and should provide a supplementary income source. Now it is clear that the communities had higher expectations, since community members expressed disappointment and some even anticipated compensation from the program implementers for lack of income through expected tourism. 

Do the project activities provide for capacity building and institutional strengthening?

Fully (7)

Capacity building is a strategic component of the bottom-up approach utilised in the Ulugan Bay project.  

A number of key community-based sustainable tourism components include:  

  • public awareness raising, training, participation and mobilisation of the members of the barangays to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the approach taken in Ulugan Bay so far (SWOT analysis - strength, weakness, opportunity and threat)  
  • the participation of different stakeholder groups in the selection of the supplementary activities to enhance  their livelihoods  
  • transparent criteria for selecting actions and activities

The capacity of local governmental institutions and the implementing non-governmental organization (NGO) was strengthened through this process, while the communities gained knowledge and awareness of ecological coastal and marine environment and related legal aspects.

Due to the short implementation period, institutional strengthening was limited to the initiation and establishment of several Peoples Organisations.  


Are the project activities sustainable?

Slightly (3)

The project adopts a global approach, based on the interaction between stakeholders, sectors and projects.  

Project activities were clearly based on sustainability principles:  

  • Strengthening existing capacities

  • Training community members to increase local awareness and capacity for carrying out natural resource assessment

  • Training, with special emphasis on tourist guides and environmental interpretation

Although communities have a sense of ownership of the actions defined in the Plan, they still have to be shown how to manage their activities and, by doing so, become empowered to establish and strengthen their organizations.

Community-based eco-tourism can be an appropriate supplementary livelihood for the barangays in Ulugan Bay. However, unfortunately some aspects related to the tourism industry cannot be totally controlled. The well-documented fragility of tourism as a sole and dominant source of livelihood was proven in this case, reducing the confidence of the communities in the process and the institutions involved.

During program implementation, the increasingly strong focus on community-based tourism in relation to the unanticipated Las Palmas kidnapping event led to disappointment in the newly founded Community Tourism Associations in all barangays.  


Have the project activities been transferred?

Slightly (3)

At this stage of implementation, activities are still being developed.

While the approach and single aspects like training modules can be transferred in the future, the immediate overall outcome may provide value to be transferred as lessons learnt, underlining the unpredictability of tourism. Marine aquaculture techniques are intended to be transferred to nearby Honda Bay.  


Are the project activities interdisciplinary and intersectoral?

Fully (9)

The stakeholder groups are a combination of public and private partners who defined common innovative actions for the development of community-based eco-tourism in Ulugan Bay. They consisted of a balanced and representative selection of partners drawn from the different socio-cultural sectors in Ulugan Bay.  

The project activities have involved physical and natural sciences, as well as socio-economic disciplines.  


Do the project activities incorporate participatory processes?

Fully (9)

The bottom-up approach that was utilized encouraged participatory decision-making at the local level for all those concerned with community-based eco-tourism and coastal resource management: meetings, training-needs assessments, consultations, focus group discussions, workshops, and master plan development. 

Activities involved not just informing the communities, but also encouraging and providing structured training for the members of the barangays to take part in the resource and socio-economic assessments, planning and management, and the formation of local organizations. 

Communities in the barangays are now aware of their coastal resources and have a stake in their conservation.   


Do the project activities provide for consensus building?

Fully (7)

The local communities decided the content of the activities and the type of organization they needed to implement these. The initial multi-stakeholder workshop provided the basis for the priority-oriented planning of the Community-based Sustainable Tourism program during phase 1 (priority-oriented is a result of ranking and ranking is based on consensus-building).  This defined a strategy to include all stakeholders, who were expected to give opinions and ideas for sustainable development projects related to eco-tourism (including marginalized indigenous peoples and farmers).

Increasing community involvement in barangay council and other decision-making processes is important to continue transparency in decision-making and ensure that all stakeholders are aware of what is happening.  


Do the project activities include an effective and efficient communication process?

Slightly (4)

While communication was effective during the planning phase, the lack of a locally based overall coordinator with a sense of ownership for all actions and plans defined, as well as political uncertainties after the planning period, led to a breakdown of established communication links, especially inter-barangays. 

The results of specialists’ studies were not effectively reflected in the training modules. 

Communication between ELAC and the community was established and maintained in a positive and consistent manner. 

Feedback meetings between the City Authorities (Agriculturist and Tourism) and the communities have been pursued. However, back-up management support, which is critical for the empowerment of the organizations, has been lacking. 

Local communication is inadequate, maybe because community representatives are not feeding back into their respective groups and playing an advisory role with other users and community organizations.  


Are the project activities culturally respectful?

Fully (9)

Stakeholders meet in places of their choosing, in accordance with their customs and use their own language.  

Local users of the resources defined the action plan according to their knowledge and awareness.


Do the project activities take into account gender and/or sensitivity issues?

Partially (5)

Gender seems not to be a special issue. Since leaders of the barangays include both genders and the project provided equal opportunities for men and women no specific gender targets or activities were specified.  

All project partners recognise indigenous peoples’ perceptions of their rights in regard to resources. Specific strategies were used for ensuring their participation in the planning process.  


Do the project activities strengthen local identities?

Partially (6)

There are good relations between ELAC and communities, demonstrating that the project team developed respect for the knowledge of the community members. The participatory socio-economic and resource assessments at the beginning of the project built a good foundation to strengthen local identities. The Buenavista Indigenous People and other communities were very confident to speak about their increased awareness and pride regarding the uniqueness of Ulugan Bay, specifically the high mangrove coverage and the Subterranean River National Park.  

The City Tourism Office has achieved recognition and gained confidence regarding the presentation of the natural assets of Ulugan Bay.  


Do the project activities shape national legal policy?


The City Management Authority issued an ordinance adopting the Plan, providing formal recognition to the plan. However, at this early stage of implementation, the project activities have not yet shaped national legal policy.  


Do the project activities encompass the regional dimension? (International)

Slightly (2)

The project activities take into consideration the integrated coastal management approach. Being a UNESCO-CSI project, it seeks to combine field projects and promotes exchange between these.  

It has the potential to achieve the critical mass necessary for joint projects with other international agencies, to encourage complementary actions.


Do the project activities provide for human rights?

Fully (7)

The people living in Ulugan Bay have small or probably no cash incomes and subsist on local resources, thus living at or below the poverty level. Their survival depends on the sustainable use of their resources. This plan addresses the needs of the barangays members and provides supplementary livelihoods, in keeping with Article 25 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights. (Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family).  


Have the project activities been documented?

Fully (8)

The project activities have been well documented.  


Have the project activities been evaluated?

Partially (6)

During the planning process and implementation of Phase I, periodic checks were made to assess the advancement of the project.  

UNESCO and the local authority carried out feedback meetings with the communities to monitor progress (Hans Thulstrup of UNESCO in 1999, Dominique Benzaken as part of the overall UNESCO-CSI assessment in 2000).

Synthesis and list of main issues from the assessment 

Future project activities 

  1. In view of the national and global economic and political situation, further community-based sustainable tourism activities at Ulugan Bay are not recommended in the immediate future, and possibly attention should be focused on other income-generating activities such as crab-fattening:
  1. The results of the project are extremely valuable for community-based tourism in the Philippines and elsewhere and should be documented and distributed widely.

  1. Meeting of donor agencies and support institutions in Manila to agree on joint agenda. This should take into account the fact that the attractiveness of Palawan as a natural resource management project site led to parallel activities by several different donors. While it became obvious that communities need support it should be delivered sensitively in order to build upon existing local capacities, avoiding paternalism.  

Introduction Activities Publications Search
Wise Practices Regions Themes