Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), an Imperative for the Health and Livelihood, and Disaster Resilience for the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific Coastal Communities

Introduction: Archipelagic and Maritime Philippines, an ICZM case study and proposition for ASEAN Vision 2025. The ocean management concerns of the Philippines as an archipelagic State encompass its archipelagic and internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf (including a possible Extended Continental Shelf). The same situation exists for the two other archipelagic States in the Central Indo-Pacific that are adjacent to each other i.e., Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The defining characteristic of an archipelagic State is a far greater sea area under national jurisdictions than land territory. This is on account of its maritime basepoints and baselines being designated and drawn connecting the outermost points of the outermost islands of the archipelago from which to delineate its maritime jurisdictions, under international law.

The Philippines is also considered a quintessential coastal State in that its population centers are never more than a hundred kilometers from the coast. Among its marine endowments are a rich unparalleled biodiversity, hosting the larger part of the coral triangle that extends to northeastern Indonesia and Malaysia (Sabah); contains four times the number of coral species than found in the Great Barrier Reef and among the highest in the world. One of only two double-barrier reefs in the world is in the Bohol.

The archipelago is a large marine ecosystem with biodiversity that serves as an important feeding and breeding grounds for high-value commercial fish species such as tuna (highly migratory and straddling fish stocks), endangered marine mammals such as the Dugong or “sea cow,” the “Butanding” or whale shark, the rarer mega-mouth shark, and six species of marine turtles. To say that the Philippine archipelago is the oceanarium of the world and a microcosm of global marine life would not be an overstatement.

This imposes on the Philippines a national burden to nurture its marine environment and resources, and furthermore take the role as the lead shepherd in ocean governance of the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific regional seas, which are interconnected enclosed and semi-enclosed seas. Collectively these regional sea areas would best be governed effectively through region-wide cooperation, which is compelled under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Part IX.

The obverse side of the coin in the above extraordinarily complex Philippines ocean scenario, extrapolated to the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific seas, is that this large marine ecosystem and its fisheries resources are exposed to serious threats and degradation on account of human activities such as illegal fishing and overfishing, pollution from mineral resources extraction (seabed/subsoil or land-based), run-off pollution from rivers and lakes, and international and domestic seaborne trade (shipping).

Additionally, this widespread threat situation in the ASEAN seas and the Central Indo-Pacific is aggravated by the absence of a regional governance mechanism or organization to address maritime issues for joint and coordinated renewable resource management, and to guarantee safe and secure sea trade routes (50% of world maritime trade pass through these regional seas). The non-existence of a regional management organization in this highly endangered ecosystem heritage area, further exposed to pollution threats as a major sea trade route, is very politically charged and falls under international law (UNCLOS Part IX) as being a critical area where regional cooperation for conservation and preservation is a base requirement. The necessity for a regional ocean management agency must be accepted and subsumed by the government and population for all would eventually be lost if there is no mechanism for effective communication leading to sustainable management of the marine resource base in the wider regional seas context; this connectivity of regional seas compels a wider governance net, that can be initiated under ASEAN Vision 2025.

Rationale and relevance of fisheries management and ocean governance to health and livelihood in the context of the Philippines archipelagic State, inevitably leading towards Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). In the present state of the Philippines as a developing country with vast maritime jurisdictions and dependence on the ocean, fisheries resources is critical to the health and livelihood of the greater majority of its people. As such, fisheries are a significant factor in overall social and economic development and enhancement. An ocean governance scheme initially focused on countrywide coastal fisheries management and extrapolated to a wider regional sea setting, must necessarily be a sustainable program to provide a meaningful longer lasting contribution to the socio-economic life of coastal communities in the ASEAN region and beyond. To put fisheries, marine resources and marine environment in its appropriate perspective and context in regard to sustainable national economic development and resilience, it must always be remembered that the Philippines is a developing country and an archipelago with far greater ocean jurisdictions than land territory. Thus, fisheries, especially artisanal fisheries, forms a very significant factor in social and economic enhancement of the nation, calling for all-around “bayanihan” social responsibility on the part of the Government and supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private business sector. This has been recently demonstrated in terms of disaster relief, which is even more compelling in building resilience. Moreover, for fisheries to have a meaningful contribution to the socio-economic life of coastal communities, conservation and management of its marine resources must necessarily be sustained using appropriate national and regional mechanisms. This is the essence of Annex VI of the Final Act in the UNCLOS, entitled “Resolution on development of National Marine Science, Technology and Ocean Service Infrastructure.”

Accordingly, the scope of the current agriculture program in the Philippines needs to be expanded and strengthened in its fisheries component. Fisheries mariculture and aquaculture farming is agriculture-based and will assume a greater role for the future food security as populations rapidly expand and the fisheries wild resource base is unsustainably strained to feed growing populations. Furthermore, the fisheries component of agriculture must include marine environmental protection (MEP) mechanisms based on sound marine scientific research (MSR), awareness and training activities to achieve program coherence, cogent direction, and desired sustainability. Further, there is also the need for a wider scope approach to integrate other ocean-oriented livelihood activities such as island and river cruise tourism, sports fishing, diving, and beach resorts to accommodate and maximize the benefits of the oceans for all stakeholders, for livelihood or recreation. The foregoing cluster of economic-oriented human activities should of interest to the tourism sector in the ASEAN, starting with ASEAN Vision 2025.

An expanded agro-fisheries program would address sustainable renewable resource management and farming from the highlands, through to the lowlands, coastal areas, mangroves and to sea farming to result in a comprehensive and integrated resource-based sustainable management program which would be the ideal fully inclusive agricultural livelihood framework for the Philippines archipelago, and address its food security requirements. A holistic, seamless and balanced development of all aspects of agriculture would serve as a social safety net providing for alternative livelihoods for the population of coastal communities in the event of production deficiencies and disasters, which can happen between land-based and marine-based aspects of agriculture. The foregoing inclusive approach, integrating terrestrial and marine components, is not only essential as far as the archipelago configuration of the Philippines dictates, but most responsive to the food security socio-economic governance pillar of the Government under the (1987) Constitution. In essence, the foregoing describes Integrated Coastal Resource Management (ICZM) that would optimize agro-fisheries in an archipelago, and in the context of the Central Indo-Pacific archipelagic continent.

Why ICZM for archipelagic Philippines, extrapolated to the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific; a blueprint for a blue economy. Firstly, a general understanding of the ICZM concept and why it is perfectly suited for implementation and adaptation in the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific is needed. The general concept is about management of the interaction between land and sea… “where terrestrial processes and land uses directly affect oceanic processes and uses, and vice versa. Formal definitions of ICZM:

Knecht and Archer (1993): “A dynamic and continuous process of administering the use, development and protection of the coastal zone and its resources towards common objectives of national and local authorities and the aspiration of different resource user groups;”

Sorenson, (1993): “Integrated management provides policy direction and a process for defining objectives and priorities and planning development beyond sectoral activities. It adopts a systems perspective and multi-sectoral approach which takes into account all sectoral interests and stakeholder interests, and deals with economic and social issues as well as environmental and economic issues.”

The ICZM scheme is a matured program that first conceived in the early 1970’s. As can be seen, in no other geological configuration would land/sea interaction be more acute than in an archipelago configuration, which is the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific. Leading archipelago nations that have adopted and developed the scheme are New Zealand and Norway; while Ireland is a work in progress. Examples of non-archipelago nations that are implementing the ICZM scheme are India, Bangladesh, Kenya.

It is said, however, that definitions of ICZM can vary depending on the localized “target territory”, but among principal elements of an ICZM program would be:

  • Adopting a wide ranging view of inter-related problems;
  • Decision-making based on good data and information;
  • Working with natural forces;
  • Involving all stakeholders and all relevant parts of the administration;
  • Using a range of instruments (laws, plans, economic instruments, information campaigns, Local Agenda 21s, voluntary agreements, promotion of good practices, etc.) for coastal management. (Source:

The “integrated” or inclusive aspect of the ICZM scheme as gleaned from above, makes for the appropriate ocean governance modality for archipelagic Philippines providing coherence in the local (LGU’s), regional (RDC’s) and national context. It should also be applicable and suitable for the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific which is a humongous maritime area sharing characteristic regional features (UNCLOS Article 197).

This is not to say that there is no integrated coastal management effort or awareness in the Philippines, practical experience that would serve a good starting point for program dissemination. Eight years ago President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 533 dated 06 June 2006 entitled Integrated Coastal Management Policy (ICM). The general policy statement, which captures the essential elements above, follows; “The ICM and related approaches, such as coastal resource management or coastal zone management, shall be the national management policy framework to promote the sustainable development of the country’s coastal and marine environment and resources in order to achieve food security, sustainable livelihood, poverty alleviation and reduction of vulnerability to natural hazards, while preserving ecological integrity.” A year later, the DENR and DA/BFAR, together with 8 partner provinces and 80 municipalities all over the country, launched the Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project (ICRMP), which is considered as a “related approach” to ICM. The project duration was 28 June 2007 to 20 June 2013.

Recalling recent natural disaster scenarios impacting on health and livelihood of coastal communities in the Philippines. The following are recent natural disaster scenarios recalled to create greater awareness and focus on calamities inflicting heavy damage to coastal communities over a wide area of the country. In these sample cases, the natural disasters were happening so close to one another that the recovery phases for each would overlap with another, creating tapestry depicting a nationwide calamity area. These recent serial disaster events demonstrate that in the archipelago configuration and geographic location of the Philippines and other coastal communities in the ASEAN and the Central Indo-Pacific, multiple natural disaster impacts including adverse effects of climate change, can happen virtually at the same time. In any such disaster, impacts to health and livelihood can be minimized through sustainable ocean governance in an integrated coastal zone management scheme. Within a year of each other, there was the high intensity Bohol earthquake followed by a super-typhoon that generated a super-storm surge and a freak oil spill in the coastal municipality of Estancia in Iloilo City, the collective effects of which was still being felt more than a year after the disasters.

To highlight certain recent disaster events in the Philippines and socio-economic costs:

Bohol earthquake – Intensity 7.2 Bohol earthquake had its epicenter in the middle of the island and coastal livelihood did not suffer too much. It is cited here because, calling attention to our archipelago configuration and its geographical location within the Pacific “ring of fire,” an Aceh-type disaster scale cannot be ruled out if an earthquake (volcanic or tectonic) epicenter happens out at sea or even in the outskirts of its maritime jurisdictions as in the great Sendai earthquake in Japan; an ever present likelihood.

“Yolanda” super-typhoon – The impact of super-typhoon Yolanda, with multiplied physical destruction due to an accompanying super-storm surge and its impact on fishing communities, would serve as a most tragic back-to-back wake-up call with regard to the current mismanagement and serious neglect of fisheries resources in the country. Beyond the physical damage in central Philippines, a serious adverse impact was in livelihood and health of the population. The extent of the cost to coastal fisheries livelihood can be depicted in the form of gratuitous over replacement of thousands of fishing boats, and the graphic account of hunger and prolonged loss of livelihood in the affected coastal communities that elicited worldwide sympathy and assistance.

Guimaras oil spill – This is just one among a few recent small-scale example of an ever-present threat of extensive damage to coastal livelihood from oil spill, from whatever source. Toxic and hazardous goods (attention also to the Princess of the Stars incident which carried loads of chemicals for fertilizer manufacture) are inevitably transported all over the country by sea. The Guimaras incident is a minor incident as far as oil spills happen, but the cost to health and livelihood of the affected communities was serious enough to negatively affect the economic performance of the country on the year of the incident. Another sample of an oil spill incident is a freak but indicative that anything can happen in the archipelago situation of the Philippines and elsewhere among coastal communities in the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific. This occurred in Estancia, Iloilo City and was not even a maritime incident but related to super-typhoon Yolanda. A floating power-barge was lifted off its mooring by the super-typhoon and spilled oil over a large swath of the coast. Beyond localized oil spills, the country must be forewarned of what are accidents waiting to happen in its western stretch of EEZ posed by present and future offshore oil drilling sites not to mention drilling within archipelagic and internal waters, and sealanes for supertankers and large cargo carriers loaded with toxic and hazardous goods. The Torrey Canyon, Exxon Valdes, and the Prestige II maritime incidents, and the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill incident would be case studies where ICZM can introduce precautionary measures and minimize damage to coastal resources and environment.

Smaller-scale incidents but a recurring serious threat to the health and livelihood of coastal communities is “red tide” and “fish kills” (not necessarily from natural causes) wherein contamination can spread very quickly on account of the country being an archipelago. Appropriate governance measures would minimize or anticipate, if not totally prevent, such incidents.

The above sample incidents can have transborder consequences, and are demonstrations of vulnerability of the Philippines on account of its archipelago configuration and geographic location, to severe natural calamities, aggravated by human neglect. Moreover, these can happen almost simultaneously and causing economic disruption throughout the length and breadth of the archipelago. They are extreme national calamity scenarios that did and could happen in other coastal communities in ASEAN and the Central Indo-Pacific. There is no doubt that multiple disaster impacts are a new phenomenon aggravated by climate change. But the Philippines is a small developing country whose pollution emission by-products of development efforts cannot be factored as contributing in any significant degree to climate change. Nevertheless, the country is at the receiving end of the deleterious results of climate change – all the greater reason why, in addition to disaster preparedness, livelihood resilience through ICZM must be built into national governance and food security. Other similar calamity scenarios would be severe monsoon weather, prolonged dry spells, earthquakes that could generate tsunamis and coastal infrastructure destruction, benign regular weather patterns such as inter-tropical convergence zones and low pressure areas, El Nino/La Nina phenomenon, which are aggravated by climate change and cause torrential rains, flash floods and heavy sea conditions; weather/climate interactions that are the causes of production deficiencies between land-based and marine-based aspects of agriculture.

Awareness alarm call on “political disasters.” In addition to multiple natural disaster impacts, regional political events as presently exemplified in the South China Sea can also affect health and livelihood of coastal communities. For example, artisanal fisherfolk in the Provinces of Zambales and Pangasinan, feel compelled to range farther out from shore into sea areas under jurisdictional disputes because of depleted fish stocks closer to shore, and are then prevented by enforcement elements of foreign countries to undertake fishing activities (The Philippine Star 21-May-2014, p.14 entitled “Leviathan turns Filipino fishermen into desperate darters). The coastal communities of the provinces of Zambales and Pangasinan are cases in point; with western Palawan and the northernmost provinces of Luzon as potential areas for similar actions. Political events such as the Spratlys archipelago and Scarborough shoal stand-off situation, may be temporary and can even subsequently generate a desired regional cooperation for marine resources management if ocean governance is initiated and instituted even unilaterally at the outset. While politically colored events are a different disaster story altogether, it could be tempered through cooperative ocean governance measures.

The problem in regard to the artisanal fisherfolk in coastal Zambales and Pangasinan facing loss of livelihood is, as reported in the news media, on account of their being prevented from fishing in traditional fishing grounds in the Panatag/Scarborough shoal. The cause of the problem is attributed to Filipino fisherfolk being denied access to those traditional fishing grounds by Chinese Coast Guard and Fisheries Agency vessels especially during a seasonal fishing ban imposed by China. While it is a fact that Chinese Coast Guard and Fisheries Agency vessels are preventing access to Panatag/Scarborough shoal, this event alone should not cause serious disruption in livelihood of Zambales/Pangasinan artisanal fisherfolk. The Panatag/Scarborough shoal is not the only fishing area accessible to them, especially areas closer to shore. The real and underlying cause of the problem is that coastal fisherfolk are forced to range farther from the coast towards Panatag/Scarborough shoal, more than a hundred nautical miles from the coast and thus well beyond the normal range of artisanal fishing, because of serious depletion of fish stocks nearer the coast as a result of years of mismanagement of these resources. This is not a question of the right of Filipino artisanal fisherfolk to fish in Panatag/Scarborough Shoal; asserting that right is a political game among governments and fisherfolk is collateral damage. The question is whether artisanal fishing in the Panatag/Scarborough shoal is all that critical to the health and livelihood of coastal communities in the Provinces of Zambales and Pangasinan whereas they should rather be fishing closer to shore.

Conflicts between or among States arising from maritime or land border issues, what are labeled here as “political disasters,” and creating livelihood and other socio-economic concerns among inhabitants of those States, are not new and happen all over the world. In many instances, States concerned allow these issues to remain dormant for the sake of peace; in the words of former Premier Deng Xiaoping of China, to “let sleeping dogs lie.” In other cases, a weaker Party would quietly lick wounds but harbor irredentist sentiments; a case in point is the Sabah question. Another instance in the South China Sea, similar to the situation in the western coast of Region III, Vietnamese fisherfolk are prevented from fishing in the Paracels archipelago (Manila Bulletin, 11-September-2014, p.8 entitled: “Vietnam accuses China of beating fishermen”). Another long-running marine resources quarrel in Asia is that between India and Pakistan in the border between Sindh Province (Pakistan) and the State of Gujarat (India). Invariably these dormant border issues are “awakened” with the discovery of straddling resources, or sharing or allocation issues arise.

Border issues, however, have always been shown to have two facets; with opportunity as the obverse side of danger. In this situation, contending States would either take a constructive approach and agree to jointly manage and share resources, or resort to war. In the case of the South China Sea an international framework for cooperation in joint management and sharing of marine resources is contained in UNCLOS Part IX. This is not in the context of a border dispute but in the effective governance of enclosed and semi-enclosed seas and sharing of its marine resources among riparian States. The obligation to cooperate is already present and only needs implementation. Instituting joint cooperation for the management of marine resources that is exhorted under the UNCLOS for enclosed/semi-enclosed seas would, in the jurisdictional conflict situation of the South China Sea, could also assume the character of “provisional measures” pending resolution of jurisdictional issues. It would be an interim mode of addressing jurisdictional questions but would, at the same time, serve as a durable and permanent ocean governance arrangement, which are among obligations of States Parties under the UNCLOS. Furthermore, these provisional or interim measures can create a benign atmosphere among Parties that could facilitate resolution of the territorial issues.

An interesting localized ICZM model and template. Artisanal fisheries as a livelihood and health concern all over the Philippines has recently been given attention in the wake of the Yolanda super-typhoon in the central Visayas region (Regions VII and VIII) as a natural disaster. It has been highlighted in the Zambales and Pangasinan provinces (Region III) on account of the South China Sea maritime disputes situation. In the former instance, the problem is the destruction of the means of livelihood i.e., fishing bancas. In the latter, the problem is the loss of fishing grounds i.e., the Panatag/Scarborough Shoal. In both instances, however, another concern would surface i.e., depletion of fish stocks. The two possible threats to health and livelihood of coastal communities due to fisheries depletion are met in Region III. This is because Region III has an agro-fishery corridor from the western coast of Luzon (Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan) to the eastern coast (Aurora) that makes Region III vulnerable and exposed to the twin disasters mentioned earlier: an ongoing “political disaster” that is the South China Sea conflict situation in its western coast; and Aurora in the eastern coast always vulnerable and exposed to risks of Yolanda-type disasters being in tropical typhoon range and landfall. Moreover, in the two instances of fisheries depletion, the solution rests in a common approach through conservation in the setting of an ICZM scheme. Region III is an ideal start-up location for developing a template for ICZM appropriate and most suited for archipelagic Philippines. A well-designed and implemented RDC-III agro-fisheries ICZM program could be the launch project for the country’s Blue Economy, which could serve as a “two in one” model for the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific coastal communities.

The problem of artisanal fishing affecting coastal communities in Regions VII and VIII (Philippines) in the aftermath of Yolanda and Region III on account of “political disasters” can be conveyed in a transmuted graphic scenario for all over the country, thus: imagine a situation of generally perfect weather conditions for fishing, and artisanal fishermen are best equipped in regard to fishing boats and fishing tools and techniques. But there is no fish to catch because of crashed fisheries resources. This would be a creeping disaster worse than Yolanda, and due in part to over-capitalization, or an over-capacity build-back scheme as was also seen resulting in the Aceh, Phuket and Sri Lanka tsunami of 2004, with its disastrous affect on a wider coastal fisheries scale. This would show that, in this modern day and age, it is not enough to teach a person “how to fish” in order to survive; it is necessary to impart the commitment for implementation of sustainable management and conservation of marine resources in order to feed the population for the future. Replacement fishing boats would be the easy part if the disaster is not about crashed or severely depleted fisheries. Indeed, a current fisheries concern worldwide is “too many fishing boats chasing too few fish.” The support infrastructure for fisheries, e.g., landing sites, refrigeration facilities, and local fisheries markets; and agriculture, such as rice and vegetable and coconut crops can be restored in time, but livelihoods of millions depend on it being addressed in a sustainable and well planned manner, while assuming responsibility for the immediate livelihoods of those affected.

The solution that would serve the livelihood concerns of coastal communities in Region III is to rebuild fish stocks and institute ICZM. This recourse is necessary whether the political situation in Panatag/Scarborough Shoal finds resolution or not. There is no easy and fast solution but immediate steps can be taken towards rebuilding and conservation of the marine environment and resources. The BFAR implicitly shall validate the observation concerning depletion of coastal fisheries resources in Zambales/Pangasinan provinces. With the assistance of the Philippine Navy (PN) and commercial fishers, the DA/BFAR is installing two arrays of fish aggregating devices (which BFAR Region III also calls artificial reefs) in the coasts of 3 towns in Pangasinan – one set far offshore for commercial fishers, and another set closer to shore for artisanal fishers. (Philippine Daily Inquirer dated 25-May-2013, “China cordon drives fishers inland,” p. A12; and Philippine Daily Inquirer dated 25-May-2012, “Gov’t to go after PH fishermen but not China’s,” p. A17). This may have been intended as a “quick fix” solution but definitely never constructive, and even destructive in the longer term. Fish-aggregating devices is considered an unsound fisheries management tool.

Initiating ICZM as an ASEAN Vision 2025 Social-Cultural Broad Characteristic. Detailed aspects in an ICZM project depends on accompanying circumstances in each target territory. Any project with the breadth and magnitude, in a unique archipelago configuration and strategic location as in the Philippines, must necessarily involve a building-block capacity-building approach that must be prioritized and distributed over an immediate and near term, and the medium and long term. A good model in developing a suitable project program would be that of New Zealand which is also an archipelagic nation. Moreover, the Government of New Zealand, which is an ASEAN Dialogue partner, had supported the ICRMP since 1997 through the New Zealand Agency for International Aid (NZAid). A first step would be to undertake a commissioned study with the collaboration of international experts and institutions to put together a design concept and organizational structure, and implementation steps with time frames.

Conclusion. A final point for a coherent and sustainable fisheries and ocean governance program in a countrywide scale is that a well-developed and properly organized and implemented national program can contribute significantly towards socio-economic resilience for the country as a whole, and contribute substantially towards food security. Moreover, as an inherently shared resource in the setting of the seas of Southeast Asia as enclosed/semi-enclosed seas, promoting cooperation and joint management among regional States concerned as under UNCLOS Part IX, would expectedly conduce towards regional peace and harmony. A necessary infrastructure component of the project ultimately to project nationwide and the maritime Southeast Asia region would be a durable high technology “mission control” – type central infrastructure for Monitoring, Control and Surveillance system (MCS). This would be closely linked to an oceanographic institute and fisheries training centers as the monitoring and research base for the project now and in the future, with access to the public domain especially to government agencies and educational institutions at all levels. It would maximize/optimize its practical utility and educational/awareness value. The resulting support cluster would then serve as the central policy/program planning institute and educational/training facility for ocean studies and fisheries schools; and conceptually be a central tool for the region in its shared efforts to address ocean governance concerns. This technology-infrastructure science support cluster guarantees the project sustainability.

Finally, a region-wide ICZM program for the ASEAN and Central Indo-Pacific coastal communities can fall under any of the 3 broad characteristics under ASEAN Vision 2025 (political-security, economic, and socio-cultural). It is suggested that the program be placed under the Socio-Cultural pillar, with hashtag #AEC 2015 Regional Ocean Governance Integration and Consolidation, and connectivity. 

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