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

Southeast Asia 
highlighting the 
Philippines and 
Palawan Province

Coastal Resources Management Ulugan Bay, Palawan Island, The Philippines
Volume I ecology, culture and socioe-conomics

Project summary
S. Fazi and P. Flewwelling 

Coastal zones contain many of the Earth’s most complex, diverse and productive ecological systems; productive in both a biological and economic sense. Reefs, mangroves, wetlands and tidelands are: (i) the nursery and feeding areas for many marine species; (ii) important areas for the recycling of the nutrients, and (iii) buffer areas for storm protection and to control erosion. 

Coastal ecotones are very complex systems that foster a dynamic balance between the terrestrial and marine environments. Sustainable development strategies for the management of these ecosystems should be orientated towards a strong evaluation of the functional characteristics of the system (i.e. carrying capacity) to preserve this delicate balance and to maximize the benefits to the stakeholders. Basic knowledge of the ecological characteristics of coastal ecotones should include the study of the ecological processes, the analysis of flow of resources that coastal systems generate, as well as the potential use of these resources for social and economic development purposes. 

Due to the complexity of both human activities and coastal ecosystems, an integrated management scheme is needed to both allocate coastal resources effectively, and minimize environmental degradation. Choices and compromises have to be made between competing users and uses of the coastal zones if an escalation of conflicts and resource degradation are to be avoided. 

The paramount objective of integrated management is to devise a framework for “sustainable utilization” of coastal resources. This exercise may be subdivided into three broad areas:

  1. Policy to form the basic parameters for coastal management planning;

  2. Planning for the allocation of resources;

  3. Implementation of planned decisions, including restorative or remedial works (Carter, R.W.G., 1988. Coastal Environments. Academic Press, London).


Local community involvement – A prerequisite for integrated management is the acceptance of the management plan by the government, and its support by all the stakeholders in coastal areas. Achieving a balance between the top-down legislative authorities and the bottom-up community involvement approach requires a delicate balance of issues and a strong link to stakeholders in the area. 

Baseline information – Availability of baseline information is key to the planning exercise. Planning also requires an understanding of the relationship among key parameters and factors in order to properly identify and prioritize management issues. This baseline should provide information on the coastal resource system, including biophysical, ecological, socio-cultural, economic, as well as institutional, organizational and implementation data. Also included in this component is the requirement for solid sectoral indicators and models to make appropriate projections of the area’s development trajectory. 

Collection of data – Where data gaps exist, primary data must be collected, updated and verified to ensure reliability of information required for decision-making. Multi-disciplinary teams have to conduct relevant applied scientific research in the biological, ecological, physical, socio-economic aspects of the site, as well as determining the existing institutional and organizational responsibility for resources management of the area. 

Formulation of management strategies and policy opinions – The output of the previous stages provides the basis on which management policy options are formulated, alternative strategies are developed to address specific management issues, and final plans are defined. The process involves both top-down and bottom-up approaches for the formulation of policies, strategies and actions needed to resolve the problems. 

Implementation of approved, sustainable management plans – After assistance in the planning exercise, the community should be assisted in the implementation phase. 

This often not the case, and attention is required for community confidence building, technical training for drafting legislative inputs to support the management plan, as well as the training for the joint community and government implementation of the plans. Joint planning and implementation through the stakeholders and legislated agencies fosters a joint stewardship of the coastal resources within the community and government services.


The “Coastal Resources Management and Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay” is a project that is being implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The project is supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), involving the Local Government Unit of Puerto Princesa City as an on-site executing agent. 

The primary objective of this project is to generate a model for community-based coastal resource management using a multi-sectoral approach. This project is inter-disciplinary in nature, specifically comprised of:

  1. Scientific collection of data on ecology, culture and socio-economics and establishment of a fisheries database as tools for gathering information and filling data gaps.
  2. Establishment of experimental fish farms and community-based sustainable tourism activities as important components for community involvement, income generation and alternative/supplemental employment opportunities. (Many resource management plans advocate restrictive measures without taking in to consideration the ability of the stakeholders to absorb these restrictions and still survive in the community. Appropriate planning balances the restrictive use of the coastal resources with suggestions for alternative income or food security to maintain the very sensitive daily balance for survival in the rural, coastal communities.)
  3. Environmental education and training in coastal resource management for both youth and adults as tools for local community empowerment and awareness.

The success of the project was therefore built around the strengthening of the community’s involvement in the sustainable development of Ulugan Bay. 

Palawan Province, highlighting Ulugan Bay

Ulugan Bay is a shallow bay located on the central, western coast of Palawan Island Province, and the mouth of the Bay opens into the South China Sea at the northern end. The Bay is situated some 47 kilometers from the provincial capital city of Puerto Pricesa. The Bay, covering 7,200 hectares, is noted for its distinct coastal mangrove forest that is in turn associated with tidal flats, seaweed beds, small islands, and smaller bays. In Ulugan Bay there are about 790 hectares of mangroves, 1.200 hectares of coral reefs and seagrass beds, thus making it a very sensitive and vitally important resource for the province.

In general, the Bay is very deep. It has no less than 14 fathoms in the fairway. Oyster Bay affords anchorage in 10 to 14 fathoms of mud bottom. The other inlets are apparently all shallow. Dotting Ulugan Bay are two islands and three islets. The 140 ft high Camungyan Island, also called the Three-Peaked Island, or popularly known as Tres Marias, lies northward of Northwest Head, or what is also called Nagkikiyang Point. Rita Island, an elongated island of about 25 hectares, is one-and-a-half miles in length north to south, by about 200 yards in breadth. It has a detached rock at its northern extremity, 45 feet in height, named Observatory Rock, from which rocky bottom, with 5 and 7 fathoms, extends in a northerly direction. Tarakawayan Islet is a tiny islet lying nearly half a mile offshore between Kayulo and Bahile Rivers at the head of the Bay. Reef Islet, locally named Manyokos, lies on the eastern portion of the Bay near Marabay Point. South of Tarakawayan Island is White Rock Islet or Puting Bato. 

Ulugan Bay

The peninsula forming the western side of Ulugan Bay comprises an undulating highland reaching to the Kasoglan Range, south of Oyster Bay. The east coast of Ulugan Bay, on the other hand, is a low undulating terrain that extends from the head of the Bay to Tapul Bay. Conical Hill, 1,190 feet high, lies on the eastern side of the low saddle, and a range extends northward from it along the eastern shore of Ulugan Bay to Piedras Point (known locally as Punta Diablo). The highest point on the Bay end, Bintuan Peak at 1,730 feet, lies near the shore of Dalrymple Point and is separated from the northern peak Sangbauen, 1,816 feet high, by a wooded valley that lies at the back of Watering Bay. The mountains are heavily forested. Over ten rivers empty into the Bay. 

Although these coastal ecosystems are presently threatened with degradation due to a number of factors, the Bay is still one of the main sources of livelihood for most of the residents of communities surrounding the Bay. Ulugan Bay is considered one of the most significant coastal and marine ecosystems of Palawan Province. Its unique natural environment and its productivity have resulted in Ulugan Bay becoming the most significant source of fish for the markets in Puerto Princesa City. Unsustainable fishing practices and increased siltation of the Bay however, threatens the livelihoods and survivability of the local fisherfolk as fish stocks have declined. 

There are five barangays (villages) in Ulugan Bay: Bahile, Macarascas, Buenavista, Tagabinet and Cabayugan. They cover approximately 42,124 hectares. The topography of the land surrounding the Bay outside of the river mouths is hilly and mountainous, with several crests higher than 985 feet within 1¾ miles of the shore. Forest cover is still extensive in the upland areas of the watersheds around the Bay, but extensive clearing for agriculture and human settlement has occurred in most lowland areas. As of 1998, Ulugan Bay was home to 5 999 people. A majority of them are farmers and fishers. Rice, corn and root crops are the major farm products. In fishing, about 35 out of the 63 species of fish are known to be of commercial value, including the high-priced lapu-lapu and suno (groupers). The area is also of significant importance for national security, due to its strategic location on the South China Sea. Its cultural importance is due to the presence of indigenous populations in the coastal and upland areas. In addition, the northern part of Ulugan Bay is included in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and National Park, which is one of the two Natural World Heritage Sites in the Philippines. 


Palawan was declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) in 1991, one of only two in the country. In 1992, the Philippine Legislature passed, and President Corazon Aquino signed into law the Republic Act (RA) 7611 adopting the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan. This created the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development which oversees the Strategic Environmental Plan implementation directly under the Office of the Philippine President. Recognizing its biological and cultural richness and diversity, several areas in Palawan were already declared, prior to the adoption of the Strategic Environmental Plan, as reservations or sanctuaries. 

The year 1992 also saw the enactment of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (RA 7586), an Act that integrated all protected areas in the country into one system under the Department of Environment and National Resources. The challenge to this system however, is the Local Government Code that devolves coastal area management to the municipalities, hence close partnerships and liaison is required between the Department of Environment and National Resources and the Local Government Units to effectively manage these areas.   

The above reasons were significant factors in the choice of Ulugan Bay as a study site for UNESCO to implement inter-sectoral activities for sustainable coastal zone management and development, under the Unit Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands (CSI).

In 1996, in line with efforts to develop an integrated planning approach, UNESCO organized a Strategic Planning Workshop for the Stakeholders of Ulugan Bay. This workshop served as the forum for discussing problems and issues affecting Ulugan Bay management, identifying areas of concern, and harmonizing Stakeholders’ efforts towards a common vision. The workshop also identified goals, objectives and strategies for effective and sustainable resource management in this area. As a significant outcome of the workshop, an Interim Ulugan Bay Multi-Sectoral Management Committee was established as a working group to coordinate and integrate all activities and actions. This workshop was followed by a series of consultations with National, Provincial and Local Authorities, Institutions, and dialogues with the local communities and indigenous groups living around the Bay. A specific survey was carried out to identify needs and potential alternative income generating activities that would be appropriate for both for local and indigenous communities. 

In 1997 the Project commenced activities in two main directions On one hand, UNESCO-CSI started a process that resulted in the development of a project document for planning inter-sectoral activities to be implemented in the Bay. On the other, UNESCO also concentrated on capacity building for local institutions. A series of training sessions on ecological coastal zone assessment (UNESCO-CSI) and on participatory rural appraisal method were organized (UNESCO-SHS). The main aim of these training sessions was to upgrade the capability of local institutions and organizations in data collection by direct involvement of local communities. The field activities carried out during the training, plus the multi-disciplinary campaigns for data collection provided the basis on which management options were formulated and activities were identified for the Project. 

In 1998, with the support of UNDP, in conjunction with The Government of the Philippines (NEDA), and in close collaboration with the Government of Puerto Princesa City, UNESCO started the implementation of the two-year project “Coastal Resources Management and Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay” (UNDP-PHI/98/007). The main objective of this project was to develop a model for coastal resource management for Ulugan Bay using a community-based, multi-sectoral approach; said model to serve as a possible reference for other initiatives.


Strategic Planning Workshop for the Stakeholders of Ulugan Bay

Dialogue with Local and Indigenous Communities     

Consultation with National, Provincial, Local Authoritoies, Institutions and NGOs


     Identification of data gaps    

Capacity building for local institutions: training on ecological coastal zones assessment (UNESCO-CSI) and participatory rural appraisal method (UNESCO-SHS)

Multi-disciplinary campaign for data collection

               Identification of management options and activities (project design)              




Coastal resources monitoring activities and collection of data on biodiversity
Socio-economic profile and analysis of alternative livelihood for poverty alleviation
Traditional resources use and the culture of the indigenous communities
The potential for sustainable tourism and economic benefits to the community



Fisheries and Fish Farming

Establishment of farms
Collection of data on the food webs dynamic, farm impact and sustainability
Fisheries data base
Sustainable Tourism
Master Plan for Community-based Sustainable Tourism
Implementation of the first phase of the Master Plan
Capacity Building and Environmental Education
Non-formal environmental education for youth
Coastal resource management training courses


Empirical Model for Community Based Coastal Zones Management in the Philippines and Workshop for Policy Makers

Implementation Steps

  1. The project commenced with four studies:
  1. Following this collection of data the project then focused on the implementation of several activities including:

Activity 1 – Community-based experimental areas for sustainable fish farming in Ulugan Bay. In collaboration with the City Agriculturist’s Office of Puerto Princesa City experimental areas for sustainable fish farming were established. This activity focused mainly on the comparative growth of Siganid Sp. in fish-pens. The project utilized the natural habitat as a culture area through enclosure by nets (2 x 2 x 2 meters). A total of 30 fish-pens were established and stocked with varying fish densities (0, 5, 10, 15, 20 number of 5 centimeter fingerlings per cubic meter with three replicates for each density). The pens were constructed on mono-specific seagrass beds of Enhalus acoroides. In each pen the density of seagrass plants was made uniform at 100 plants for square meter.  The fish then depended mainly on the natural food present in the area, mainly epiphytes on the seagrass. Crab (Scylla serrata) fattening areas were also established.

Aside from providing scientific information on ecological processes such as food webs dynamics and productivity the importance of this activity was to serve as a “window” to the local communities on how to utilize the marine resources in the area for supplemental income without creating any harmful or destructive effect. It further increased their awareness on how to protect, manage, utilize and conserve the resources in the Bay. It also was intended to redirect community efforts from fish catching to fish farming, or a combination of the two activities. Data gathered were intended to guide future considerations for fish farming for the local communities. These can also be a reference for further research studies.

Activity 2 - Establishment of a fisheries database. In collaboration with the City Agriculturist’s Office of Puerto Princesa City, and involving local fishermen from all the barangays in the Bay, a database was to be developed to account for the fish catches and effort expended. This system forms the base for the fisheries data system for the City and for two other international fisheries projects in the area so that unnecessary duplication and overlaps would be avoided. The intent was to develop only one fisheries data system for the City for fisheries management, consequently the system had to be compatible with the other systems as they were created. 

Activity 3 - Master plan for community-based sustainable tourism. The Master Plan was the result of the collective work from a series of sustainable tourism activities (community consultation, stakeholder workshops and supporting fieldwork). In 1999, Green Globe organized a series of field visits to the Ulugan Bay area. The output of these visits was summarized in the report entitled “The Potential for Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay”. The main function of this report was to provide the background required for the formulation of the Master Plan. In addition, information contained within this report assisted in the design and implementation of a subsequent stakeholders workshop; the “Workshop for Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay” was held in Puerto Princesa City in June 1999. More data was obtained at the workshop as additional input for the formulation of the Master Plan. All the interested parties and agencies that had a stake in the Ulugan Bay area participated in the Workshop. In the same undertaking, individual meetings were also held with the Councils of the five barangays and two Ancestral Domains during which community representatives took a proactive role in proposing their own initiatives. This Master Plan adopted a ‘bottom-up’ approach for the development of the planning framework. This planning structure included an examination of the various initiatives proposed at the community-level (micro-scale), and an assessment of the implications of these initiatives in terms of required actions, costs and potential sustainability. These components were then integrated with Puerto Princesa City’s wider development and conservation plans (macro-scale). The implementation of the first phase of the master plan directly involved the local communities in the organization and management of tourism.

Activity 4 - Non-formal environmental education for youth and adults. In each of the five barangays of Ulugan Bay environmental education courses were organized for youth as well as training courses for adults in the fields of coastal zones management. A total of six different training modules were presented in each barangay from initial coastal ecosystem awareness to training on legislative rights of the community in development under the Local Government Code.

Interactions between social and ecological processes are complex in a coastal environment context, and there was inadequate information about how these interactions occur in the Ulugan Bay area. This project was intended to create the necessary platform for development of policy and management practices at the community level. 

The analysis in this summary includes assessments of coastal resources and small-scale alternative income generating activities (sustainable tourism and fish farms). Both these initiatives require community investigations and understanding of the trends in resource use and their long-term status; an understanding that is a basic requirement for subsequent action. This analysis permits a clear definition of how long-term, sustainable economic activities could be carried out by local communities. 

All the data collected and the lessons learned during the implementation of the project were amalgamated into a model for community-based coastal resources management. This empirical model, generated through a multi-sectoral approach, constituted a practical example for sustainable development in coastal areas, one that could be tested in other areas in the Philippines. Furthermore, the information collected during the Project provided practical guidelines to future managers and policy makers. To emphasize the data-policy linkage and input into managerial decisions, a policy and managerial workshop was organized at the end of the project. The main aim of the workshop was to foster open communication of the model to policy makers, and facilitate final input from the communities to emphasize “lessons learned”, and further, to enhance the model for possible replication, where appropriate, in other coastal areas of the Philippines. 

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