Wednesday,February 6, 2019

Coastal and Marine Protected Areas


The Philippines is an island country consisting of some 7,400+ islands and islets and have a coastline of approximately around 37,000 km. With Seventy Eight percent (78%) of its provinces lying in the coastline located at the apex of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines is an integral part of this global center of marine biodiversity. Unfortunately, climate change and human activities have taken a heavy toll on the country’s coral reefs, mangrove forests, and endangered species, making it one of the 35 hotspots in the world.

Coastal and Marine Biodiversity of the Philippines

The Philippines is home to variety of coral and fish species. As the center of the Coral Triangle, it is home to more than 500 coral species and 2,500 reef fishes and other marine biodiversity. Out of the more than 67 global species of seagrasses, 18 of which is found in the Philippines.

  • The Philippine seas are also home to the 5 of the 7 existing species of marine turtles, 28 marine mammals, 168 cartilaginous fishes, 648 species of mollusks, 1,755 reef-associated fishes, 1,062 seaweeds and 820 species of algae.
  • has identified 29 Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered Coral Reef Species. EDGE species are unique in many ways and are threatened to extinction, that when gone, there will be nothing like them on earth.

A BIOWEB.PH partner, Haribon Foundation has studied 3 EDGE species: the Mushroom Coral ( Heliofungia actiniformis), Pearl Bubble coral ( Physogyra lichtensteini), and the Elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei).  

Marine Protected Areas under NIPAS

There are currently 35 Legislated Marine Protected Areas in the Philippines covering 3 million hectares or 1.42% of the 220 million hectares total sea area of the country. These areas covers coastal zones having the following major ecosystems along its shallow coastlines:

  • Coral Reefs
  • Seagrass beds – are seed-producing marine plants that occur in shallow, nearshore waters and often found between coral reefs and mangrove areas, colonizing the soft, shallow and sandy-muddy bottom. There are 6  types of seagrass commonly found in the Philippines.
  • Mangroves – woody seed-bearing plants adapted for life in brackish water.
  • estuaries and lagoons

These various ecosystems found in the coastal and marine areas provide various benefits and uses not just to humans but to other species as well. Dugongs and sea turtles graze on seagrass beds for food, migration and reproduction.

The Coral Reefs in the West Philippines Sea has an estimated area of 4,640 km2 or 464,000 hectares (CARE-CaDRES Report 2019). The Philippines is believed to have the third largest reef area and the most diverse coral reefs in the world. A square meter of a healthy coral reef produces 1 to 5 kilograms of white sand per year, making reefs an even more vital component of coastal tourism. Since coral reefs are natural wave breakers, it protects coastal communities from tidal waves, strong currents, and storm surges.

Mangroves are also vital. They serve as barrier from storm surges, waves, act as a carbon sink, and stabilize the coastline by reducing erosion. The biggest threats to mangroves includes cutting for firewood and charcoal, siltation caused by upland deforestation and irresponsible mining, and conversion of mangrove areas to fishponds.

The main threat to seagrasses is reclamation because they are often perceived as having no direct benefit to humans, when in fact they sequester carbon, provide valuable shellfish and slows down strong waves.

The Marine Key Biodiversity areas of the Philippines host 209 globally threatened and 21 restricted range species such as mollusk, sharks, rays, reef fishes, sea turtles and marine turtles.

Realizing the need to protect the coastal and marine biodiversity in the country, the government has declared 72 marine protected areas (MPA’s) out of the 244 protected areas under NIPAS.

The Philippine reefs contribute approximately P1.35 billion to the national economy per year. Many areas in the country continue to rake profit from ecotourism, showcasing its coastal and marine biodiversity, its white-sand beaches, lagoons and world-class diving spots, which attract both local and foreign tourists.

Regional Initiatives:

In effort to reduce the degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems which is threatening the food security of its growing population, the Philippines has embraced the goals of the Coral Triangle Initiative. It is a multilateral partnership of six countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste developing national plan of actions and adopting actions toward sustainable growth to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources by addressing crucial issues such as food security, climate change and marine biodiversity.

Coral Triangle

The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape Project

In recognition of the need to jointly manage and protect shared marine resources, the 3 countries bordering the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape approved the design of a transboundary “Sea Turtle MPA Network”. Under the umbrella of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), the Sulo-Sulawesi Seascape Project implemented by GIZ last 2012 has recognized Sulu-Sulawesi Seascapes as a priority conservation sites thru collaboration and putting in place local and national policies among the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape countries.

National Initiatives: CMEMP

At the national level, the Philippines through the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has implemented the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program or CMEMP. The program aims to comprehensively manage, address and effectively reduce the drivers and threats of degration of the coastal and marine ecosystems in order to achieve and promote sustainability of ecosystem services, food security and climate change resiliency for the benefit of the present and future generations.

The scope and coverage of CMEMP includes all coastal and marine areas of the Philippines covering all, but not limited to the 72 NIPAS Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Locally Managed Marine Protected Areas (LMMPAs), Marine Key Biodiversity areas (MKBAs), and adjacent municipal waters.

CMEMP focuses in improving coastal and marine ecosystems in the following:

  • 123 Integrated Marine Key Biodiversity Areas (MKBAs) which is host to 209 globally threatened and 21 restricted range species which includes mollusks, sharks, rays, reef fishes , sea and marine turtles.
  • 3 Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas
  • 1,800+ Marine Protected Areas(MPAs) which includes 1,620 locally managed MPAs covering about 394,000 hectares
  • 43 NIPAS Marine Protected Area(MPA) covering 1.3 million hectares or 1.40% of the 220 million hectares total sea area.


CMEMP Management Approaches:

  1. Integrated Coastal Management
  2. Partnership Building
  3. Ecotourism/Sustainable Ecorourism
  4. Protection, Management and Law Enforcement
  5. Communication, Education and Public Awareness
  6. Monitoring and evaluation

On-going Initiatives for  Coastal and Marine Area Protection and Conservation:

  • Declaration of Benham Rise (Philippine Rise) as Marine Protected Area thru a Presidential Proclamation
  • Proposed declaration of West Philippine Sea as Marine Protected Area under NIPAS
  • Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project
  • Continuing Mandamus of the Philippine Supreme Court to “Clean, Rehabilitate and Preserve Manila Bay”. 

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