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

Coastal Resources Management Ulugan Bay, Palawan Island, The Philippines
Volume II master plan for community based eco-tourism

Martin L. Felstead


This Community Based Eco-tourism Master Plan represents a single component within a wider project whose ultimate objective is to generate an empirical model for integrated coastal resource management. The project employs a mulit-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approach with the aim of alleviating poverty in Ulugan Bay through the development of sustainable livelihoods in areas such as community based eco-tourism and sustainable coastal fish farming. These activities are to be supported by environmental assessments and education/capacity-building initiatives. The project is composed of three main elements: Socio-economics; Traditional resource-use and culture; and Community Based Sustainable Tourism. 

The project is executed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and it is administered under a Memorandum of Agreement between the Puerto Princesa City Government and UNESCO. UNESCO/CSI Jakarta Office, the National Committee on Marine Sciences and the Puerto Princesa City Government jointly manage it with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The project became operational in January 1999. 

Other agencies/non-government organizations (NGOs) closely involved include:

(NB Italics denote areas of primary input to the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Project). 

The scope of the project encompasses the coastal and marine environs of Ulugan Bay on the central western coast of Palawan Province. It is intended that the project will support UNESCO’s declaration of Palawan as a Biosphere Reserve (1991); the Strategic Environment Plan of Palawan (1992); the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of the Philippines; the Environmentally Critical Areas Network; and the declaration of nearby Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and National Park, formally Saint Paul’s Subterranean River National Park, as a World Heritage Site. A major strategy within the implementation of the Strategic Environment Plan of Palawan (R.A.7611) is the establishment of the Environmentally Critical Areas Network, a graded system of protection encompassing Palawan’s marine, coastal and terrestrial areas. In support of this framework, the activities identified for implementation within the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan for Ulugan Bay will be located within the appropriate Environmentally Critical Areas Network zones (e.g. controlled, traditional and/or multiple-use zones). In addition, activities contained within the Master Plan’s capital works program will pass through the ‘Clearance System’ operated by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development. For example, appropriate documents (e.g. Initial Environmental Examinations, etc.) will be submitted to the council prior to implementation. 

Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan is charged with formulating a comprehensive framework for the implementation of Community Based Sustainable Tourism development within Ulugan Bay, an area which is significant from both conservation and development perspectives. In pursuit of this objective, the document addresses conceptual, methodological and practical issues. It details community proposals for Community Based Sustainable Tourism initiatives at the local level providing a systematic set of guidelines for implementation. Planning issues are explored at the Ulugan Bay level and strategic planning at the Puerto Princesa City Municipal level. In the penultimate section, a condensed action plan is provided summarizing recommendations for development planning, implementation, management and monitoring. In each of the community areas a number of Community Based Sustainable Tourism activities are prioritized for implementation during Phase Ones of the Action Plan (short-term). 

The Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan for Ulugan Bay adopts an inter-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach within which each element is treated in a systematic manner. The document is divided into eight major sections:

  1. Introducing aims, objectives, methodologies and definition of terms.
  2. Site description.
  3. Stakeholder involvement.
  4. Community Based Sustainable Tourism proposals at the local level (Micro-scale).
  5. Community Based Sustainable Tourism planning at the Ulugan Bay level (Meso-scale).
  6. Integrated planning at the Puerto Princesa City Municipal level (Macro-scale).
  7. Action Plan summary.
  8. Summary conclusions.


The Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan represents the collective output from a series of sustainable tourism activities (community consultation, stakeholder workshops and supporting fieldwork). This data led to the submission of a report entitled The Potential for Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay, Palawan, Philippines. Green Globe, UNDP/UNESCO and the City Government of Puerto Princesa City (M. Sallows, 1999) which in turn provided the framework for the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. This document draws upon both primary and secondary data from a variety of sources reflecting the multi-sectoral, inter-disciplinary approach adopted by the wider Coastal Resource Management and Sustainable Tourism Project. 

In preparation for fieldwork and community-consultation exercises, secondary reconnaissance data was secured. This data-set included information relating to:

In March 1999, a series of field visits to the Ulugan Bay area were organized with three main objectives:

The output of the field visit was the report entitled The Potential for Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay. The main function of this report was to provide the contextual background required for the formulation of the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. In addition, information contained within the potential report assisted in the design and implementation of a subsequent stakeholders’ workshop held later in the year.

This workshop, entitled Community Workshop for Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay was organized by Green Globe and was held in Puerto Princesa City in June 1999. The aim of this activity was to generate further data in support of the formulation of the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. In order to achieve this, the workshop brought together all the interested parties and agencies who have a stake in the Ulugan Bay area and the coastal resource management and Sustainable Tourism Project.

Those interested parties include:

  • Ulugan Bay level: 
Bahile Barangay Council
Macarascas Barangay Council
Buena Vista Barangay Council
Tagabinet Barangay Council
Cabayugan Barangay Council
Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (Kayasan and Cabayugan) Tribal council
  • Municipal level: 
Puerto Princesa City Tourism Office
Puerto Princesa City Agriculturist Office
City Tribal foundation
Saint Paul’s Subterranean River National Park
  • Provincial and National levels:
Palawan Council for Sustainable Development
Philippine Department of Tourism
National Economic Development Agency
Department of Environment and Natural Resources/Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office
Western Command/Naval Forces West
Palawan Tropical Forestry Protection Program
  • Others:
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Ogranization/United Nations Development Program
Environmental Legal Assistance Center
Palawan Conservation Corps
University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute/National Committee for Marine Sciences –UNESCO National Commission for the Philippines
International Marinelife Alliance
Palawan NGO Network Inc.
Ulugan Bay Foundation inc.
Palawan Eco-volunteer Program

The workshop divided these representatives into four main groups, containing an even distribution of the stakeholders, each group being facilitated by one assistant.

In the interests of easing understanding and expression amongst the various participants, the majority of the workshop was conducted either in Tagalong or in English with Tagalong.

The workshop commenced with two presentations:

Over a two-day period, a series of exercises were conducted during which collective responses to a series of questions relating to a broad range of issues were elicited from the four groups of participants. These exercises were primarily aimed at evaluating sustainable tourism and Ulugan Bay’s relative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats with reference to:

An additional major output from the workshop was the result of an activity entitled destination visioning. This exercise generated four group vision statements for Community Based Sustainable Tourism in Ulugan Bay, which were then merged to form a single statement. This activity encouraged workshop participants to frame their thoughts regarding Community Based Sustainable Tourism development in Ulugan Bay (e.g. hopes, fears, aspirations and needs).

Uluan Bay Stakeholders’ vision statement

Pananaw ng Look Ulugan:

Ang look Ulugan ay magbibigay ng dekalidad na pangmatagalang makakalikasang produkto at serbisyong pang-turisno na nagpapakita ng ating mayamang katutubong kulturang natatangi at kakaibang likas na kapaligiran. Inaanyayahan natin ang lahat ng turista/tao/bisita upang madama at makibahagi sa aming pangako na maging tapat sa isang makakalikasang at akmang kaunlarang pang-turismo sa pamamagitan ng pagtutulungan at pagdadamayan sa isa’t isa upang maitaas ang pangkalahatang antas ng buhay.

The vision is:

Ulugan Bay will offer high-quality educational Community Based Sustainable Tourism products and services reflective of our rich local culture and uniquely diverse natural environment. We invite visitors to share our commitment to environmentally and culturally sound tourism development through the mutual co-operation of all stakeholders in order to uplift our overall standard of living.

In support of the production of the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan further field visits to Ulugan Bay were carried out. The primary aims of these visits were to:

  1. Become familiarized with Ulugan Bay, its tourist attractions and communities.
  2. Explain the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan to the local communities, in terms of its function, formulation and the processes through which it will be considered in draft form and eventually submitted for endorsement by Ulugan Bay’s primary stakeholders.
  3. Provide a further opportunity (before the formulation of a draft copy of the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan) for local communities (the five barangays and two certificate of ancestral domain claims) to prepare their Community Based Sustainable Tourism proposals.

In pursuit of these objectives, individual meetings were held with the Councils of the five barangays and two certificate of ancestral domain claims during which community representatives took a pro-active role in proposing their own Community Based Sustainable Tourism initiatives. A number of potential tourism sites were also visited and the logistics of developing them considered at the local level.

In order to further integrate the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan with the rest of the broader project’s activities and other conservation and development initiatives within or adjacent to the Ulugan Bay area, secondary data was acquired from a variety of sources (i.e. Puerto Princesa City’s plans for long-term strategic development planning in the Ulugan Bay area and the management and master plans for neighboring Sabang and Saint Paul’s Subterranean River National Park, City Planning Office 1999).

Initially, the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Master Plan was submitted in a draft format to both the primary and secondary stakeholders, government agencies and other project personnel for comment. This represented a final opportunity for stakeholder consultation, participation and input. On receipt of these comments, a final draft was compiled incorporating these results. This second version was then re-submitted to the Puerto Princesa City Government and local authorities (i.e. the barangays and two certificate of ancestral domain claims) for endorsement. The final Master Plan was also presented to other agencies for endorsement (e.g. Palawan council for Sustainable Development). Once endorsed, then the implementation of Phase One (short-term) of the Action Plan commenced. This development stage includes both hard and soft initiatives (e.g. training and capital works respectively) prioritized for implementation in each community area. These activities are supported by a rolling-program of community consultation and participation which functions as a monitoring mechanism, generating the necessary feed-back data essential to successful implementation.

This selection of Community Based Sustainable Tourism activities for Phase One implementation was based on the following criteria:

In keeping with the project’s community based emphasis, this Master Plan adopts a bottom-up approach, in constructing the planning framework. This planning structure comprises an examination of the various Community Based Sustainable Tourism initiatives proposed at the community-level (micro-scale) and the implications of these in terms of required actions (Section Four). In section Five, this thematic approach is applied to Ulugan Bay as a whole (meso-scale), while Section Six, explores how these components integrate with Puerto Princesa City’s wider development and conservation plans (macro-scale). In Section Seven, a summary of the proposals and recommended actions (at all scales) is provided in a tabulated format so that the information is more readily accessible to other stakeholders and decision-makers. Consequently, a multi-layered planning framework is generated with its basis firmly rooted in the communities of Ulugan Bay. This document considers this approach to be fundamental in meeting the objective of active community participation.


Complexity, overlap and linkage characterize the issues of community development, sustainability and conservation. This is a reflection of the large number of the various biophysical and socio-cultural components involved and the high degree of connectivity, which exists between them. The aim of this section is to clarify fundamental issues at the outset, providing a conceptual framework against which the practical issues addressed within the document may be viewed. Collectively, this imparts a sense of direction to the plan, essential in long-term implementation.

The Master Plan contains three main elements:

  1. Community based development
  2. Sustainability
  3. Eco-tourism

Community based development 

In the context of this document, the term community refers primarily to the inhabitants of the five barangays and two certificate of ancestral domain claims of Ulugan Bay (primary stakeholders). However, the project also includes secondary stakeholders such as municipal and provincial government agencies, the military (Western Command/Naval Forces West) and NGOs active in the area, which collectively form an administrative/institutional community. When viewed in this context, the wider communities of Ulugan Bay appear heterogeneous, composed of disparate groups with differing perspectives, responsibilities and agendas. Consequently, although this Master Plan is charged with balancing the interests of all the stakeholders in the area, it will necessarily focus primarily on the needs of the resident communities( i.e. the people of the five barangays and two certificate of ancestral domain claims). In addition, the community based element requires this Master Plan to adopt a bottom-up approach wherein the communities become empowered through and throughout the Community Based Sustainable Tourism development process. This form of development is therefore rooted in the communities as opposed to being merely orientated in their direction. In consequence, this Master Plan should be viewed as being primarily a community document.

It is an unfortunate reality that tourism development is often characterized by inequity of access to resources. In numerous cases local communities become increasingly marginalized within the development process and subsequently displaced. This process can lead to increased poverty amongst local people resulting in accelerated environmental degradation, social disruption and cultural dilution. Community based development within the scope of this project is therefore aimed at building both community capability and capacity, not only in an economic context but also with reference to equity of access to resources. Consequently, this involves not only developing and expanding the skill-base of local communities, but also nurturing and sustaining equitable relationships between the various stakeholders (i.e. relative empowerment).

If community based development is to be successfully implemented within the Ulugan Bay area then the interests of all the different stakeholders who are involved need to be equally addressed. In this context the term stakeholder refers not only to local communities, government bodies/agencies, private sector enterprises and NGOs active within the area, but also to the biophysical component (i.e. both marine and terrestrial flora and fauna). The primary aim of this project therefore is to nurture a form of development, which is capable of balancing the needs of the local communities and government/non-government organizations and the conservation of the biophysical and cultural environments. This strategy is aimed at addressing the relationship between poverty and environmental/socio-cultural degradation, often referred to as conservation on an empty stomach (UNCED, 1987. Our Common Future (the Brundtland Report), Oxford, Oxford University Press; UNCED, 1992. Nations of the Earth Report, United Nations Conference for Environment and Development, Geneva, 1992, Vol. 2; UNCED, 1992. Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, 1992). 

In this Master Plan, the aim is to employ community based development as a form of capacity building aimed at generating supplementary livelihood activities at the local level. In this context the phrase livelihood activity refers to economic initiatives, which primarily serve and sustain the lives of local people as opposed to serving the economic interests of commercial companies, shareholders and investors. The aim therefore is to achieve the socio-economic, socio-ecological and socio-cultural development of Ulugan Bay through sustainable management practices that focus on the needs of both the local communities and the environment. The ultimate goal therefore is to balance development with conservation in the belief that relieving poverty enables conservation and conservation can be employed in relieving poverty. 

Community based development therefore seeks to empower local people throughout the development process. In order to achieve this, it involves local communities through consultative and participatory mechanisms. In the context of the sustainable tourist component of the wider Ulugan Bay Coastal Resource Management Project these criteria have bee met through the use of field visits and repeated community consultation and workshops during which representatives have been encouraged to take a pro-active role. These strategies have been under-pinned by educational workshops carried out by the Environmental Legal Assistance Center as part of the wider Coastal Resource Management Project. This is designed to empower local people through quality education and training.

Finally, community consultation and participation are not regarded in this planning document as temporary activities which are completed at some stage during community based development. On the contrary, this Master Plan regards continual community consultation and participation as an essential component of community based development. This is aimed at nurturing and sustaining community awareness, self-help and co-management, fostering a spirit of collective responsibility and equity in relations whilst simultaneously functioning as an effective monitoring mechanism. 


The World Conservation Strategy (IUCN, 1980. Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development, Gland, Switzerland, IUCN) and the Brundtland Report, entitled Our Common Future (UNCED, 1987. Oxford, Oxford University Press) both identified the issue of sustainability as the necessary center-point for future global development and conservation strategies. This effectively placed the subject on the world stage, reflecting growing international concern regarding the state of the global environment and giving it a high priority in subsequent environmental agendas. The Brundtland Commission described sustainable development as:

development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (UNCED, 1987. Our Common Future (the Brundtland Report), Oxford, Oxford University Press).

The key components in this interpretation are needs and future generations. It seems clear that the Brundtland Commission did not intend to recommend that peoples presently existing on a subsistence level should remain so in perpetuity, in the name of sustainability, a view with which this document concurs. The term needs therefore, must also be considered in the context of the aspirations and expectations communities may have of the development process and how these may be met sustainably. Sustainable development strategies therefore, seek to effect some improvement in the quality of human life, as measured by the provision of key indicators such as health, housing, income, employment and education (i.e. access to resources) without exceeding the carrying capacities of the supporting resource-base. This places resource management at the center of sustainable development, in which resource usage is conducted in a manner which does not degrade the resource-base nor diminish the range of development options open to future generations. These issues of resource management, quality of life and inter-generational equity are therefore fundamental when considering sustainable development. 

The premise that sustainable development only allows a society to live within the limits of its environment does not necessarily mean that such a development strategy is unable to produce growth. Where local communities are living at or close to subsistence levels, it is possible that during the early stages of sustainable development, the ability to create new resources, enhance existing resources and rehabilitate previously degraded resources may lead to an initial period of growth. However, once the carrying capacity of the environment is reached, furhter growth may only take place as new, alternative ways of sustainably developing the resource-base are found (Coomer, J., 1979. The Nature of the Quest for a Sustainable Society, in J. coomer (ed.), Quest for a Sustainable Society. Oxford, Pergamon Press. 

The difficulties associated with achieving sustainability are highlighted by Tony Macelli when he observed that:

human development activities, perforce, involve some degree of modification to the environment in order to increase the provision of those goods and services which are valued by humans” (Macelli, T., 1990. Sustainable Development and Environmental Management: The Case of the Small Mediterranean Island of Gozo, in W. Beller, P. d’Ayala and P. Hein (eds.) Sustainable Development and Environmental Management of Small Islands. Man and the Biosphere Series. Vol. 5. Parthenon Publishing Group, 1990. 

Consequently, in fragile environments such as Ulugan Bay, sensitive environmental management must be a precursor to, and part of, sustainable development. This suggests that, if economic development is to be managed sustainably, then it is necessary to identify and pre-empt problems and ensure that the economy develops in a way that is compatible with both the needs of local people and the wider environment. In other words, our biophysical, economic and social system need to live off the resource dividend without degrading the resource capital (Asian Development Bank, 1990. Economic Policies for Sustainable Development). 


The positioning of eco-tourism as an alternative to the intensive mass-tourism market creates expectations both inside and outside the industry regarding its mode of operations. If these expectations are to be met, then the eco-tourism sector has to sustainably manage its resource supply and demand relationships. This link between eco-tourism and sustainabilty is essentially what sets eco-tourism apart fro its more mainstream counterparts and yet at the same time it also creates a dilemma for this market sector. 

Like sustainable development, eco-tourism has become a much misused and misunderstood concept that has proven notoriously difficult to define, let alone implement. As the eco-tourism market has matured it has also become subject to a wide variety of interpretations. 

The Eco-tourism Society and The Pacific Asia Travel Association link eco-tourism with the natural history of the area, including indigenous cultures (Eco-tourism Society, 1992. Definition and Eco-tourism Statistical Fact Sheet, Alexandria, VA.). They also propose that this form of tourism should make economic benefits available to local communities as they should also benefit from the conservation of natural and socio-cultural resources. The Pacific Asia Travel Association goes on to suggest that eco-tourists: visit relatively undeveloped areas in the spirit of appreciation, participation and sensitivity (Nelles, E.F., 1996. Primer on Eco-tourism, The Office of Product Research and Development Planning, Product Development and Co-ordination Sector, Department of Tourism. Philippine Department of Tourism circular). The inference therefore is that eco-tourism does not degrade the biophysical environment, nor dilute or destroy the traditional socio-cultural framework of local communities. In addition, it is intended to concentrate the economic benefits derived from tourism within a local populace who participate through and throughout the conservation and development process. These elements are highlighted in a joint Department of Environmental and Natural Resources-Department of Tourism memorandum circular entitled ‘Guide Laws for Eco-tourism Development in the Philippines’ (signed in June 1998) which interprets ‘eco-tourism’ as: a low-impact, environmentally-sound and community-participatory tourism activity in a given natural environment that enhances the conservation of biophysical understanding and education and yields socio-economic benefits to the concerned community (Libosada, Jr., Carlos, T., 1998. Ecotourism in the Philippines. bookmark Inc. Makati, Philippines). 


In summary eco-tourism must strive to balance the interests of all the stakeholders, taking into account the biophysical and human environments. In this context, the term eco refers to the wider interpretation of ecology in that it includes both the biophysical and socio-cultural environmental components. In order to avoid compounding existing confusion regarding the diversity of interpretations given to the concept of eco-tourism, this Community Based Eco-tourism Master Plan will adhere to the principles adopted by the Pacific Asia Travel Association, the Philippine Department of Tourism and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This form of tourism is essentially Community Based Sustainable Tourism within which the interests of all stakeholders are represented equitably. Consequently, this Master Plan will seek to generate a form of tourism development that is:

  1. Founded (rooted) in the communities of Ulugan Bay.

  2. Based on sustainable resource management principles.

  3. Economically viable within the wider tourism market.

  4. Empowering to local communities.

  5. Capable of integrating the needs of development with those of conservation.

By bringing together three main elements (communities, sustainability and eco-tourism), the Community Based Sustainable Tourism component of the wider Coastal Resources Management Project aims to address a fundamental issue which is important, not only at local, provincial and national levels, but also at the global scale (i.e. how to integrate development with conservation). 

Introduction Activities Publications Search
Wise Practices Regions Themes