Since receiving a Highly Commended Distinction during the Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability Green Gown Awards in September 2016, the University’s Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA) and Br. Alfred Shields FSC Ocean Research (SHORE) Center’s ongoing Talim Bay Community-Based Coastal Resource Management (CBCRM) Project has continued to enact new measures that help improve the environmental state and livelihood opportunities in Lian, Batangas.
The CBCRM Project began as a joint initiative between COSCA and SHORE in 2014. Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, founding director of SHORE and full professor of the Biology Department, previously conducted research on the coastal ecosystem of Talim Bay and provided recommendations to the local government units (LGU) in the surrounding area. Following the failure to actualize these recommendations, Dr. Licuanan partnered with COSCA to formulate the CBCRM Project, which has since evolved into a long-term community development project involving different partner organizations in Lian.
For improved environmental protection and sustainability
One of the first objectives of the CBCRM Project was the declaration of Talim Bay as a marine protected area. However, COSCA and SHORE were initially challenged by the wide scope of communities that surrounded Talim Bay. To ensure the full protection of the coastal area, they needed to pursue and build partnerships with nearby barangays and sitios.
COSCA Program Manager Leo Tadena shares that the members of these communities were also skeptical in the beginning about the changes they recommended. According to him, this is where the role of SHORE as a research institution became integral to the success of the CBCRM Project. In the past, the fisher folk had different practices on fishing which were both traditional and destructive to the environment. “With the back-up of SHORE, their extensive and intensive research contributed to the rehabilitation of biodiversity in the coastal area,” explains Tadena.
Beyond eradicating existing destructive practices in the communities, the CBCRM Project also includes a mangrove planting initiative tied into the existing One Million Trees and Beyond campaign of De La Salle Philippines. More than 2,000 mangroves have already been planted in the Talim Bay area, with an estimate of 2,000 more to be planted before the end of 2017. As of press time, the CBCRM Project has contributed a total of 54,171 mangroves to the said campaign.
COSCA is continuing to explore partnerships with other barangays and sitios as only three communities are currently involved with the CBCRM Project. “The idea is if we have more barangays [and] coastal areas promoting [the] conservation of marine protected areas, then it would even have a wider impact,” Tadena emphasizes.
The project also aims to promote eco-tourism by providing alternative livelihood opportunities to fisher folk. They are also being trained to become licensed tourist guides, technical divers, and local researchers.
On CBCRM’s stakeholders and their involvement
Although COSCA and SHORE remain at the helm of the CBCRM Project, other external stakeholders play key roles in its success. The most integral of these stakeholders are the members of the communities as represented by the people’s organizations. They serve as the backbone of the project by being implementers of the efforts.
Additionally, the LGUs of the partner communities provide essential support in the form of technical assistance, local legislation, and law enforcement. For instance, officials from the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) supplement the efforts of COSCA and SHORE by providing research and conducting their own environmental campaigns.
“You will really need the LGU in this whole process. If they are significantly part of this whole campaign, then the whole process of research and community development is geared for a long-term direction,” says Tadena, as he further underscores the LGUs’ importance to the projects’ sustainability.
Other stakeholders include the local homeowners’ associations and public schools. The latter takes part through the Sea Scouts program of SHORE, where students are taught to be advocates for the protection of marine life. Ultimately, the program aims to ensure that the initiatives instigated through the CBCRM project will be sustained by future generations.
Similarly, local homeowners, specifically those who own businesses like resorts, are tapped to aid in the promotion of the advocacy among tourists. By doing so, Tadena claims that these businesses also become social enterprises and gain long-term benefits beyond financial profits.
The future of the CBCRM Project
The Talim Bay CBCRM Project’s evolution into an intensive community development initiative was an unprecedented yet welcome development for the University. For Tadena, the project symbolizes the actualization of an integral aspect of DLSU’s Vision-Mission. “Our engagement in Lian is a direct manifestation of our [Vision-Mission]. It’s not [limited to] just [doing] research, but our research now becomes concrete, tangible, and meaningful to the lives of people,” he expresses.
When asked about the possibility of replicating the success of the project in other coastal areas in the country, Tadena readily affirmed COSCA’s readiness to do so. Though there is no guarantee that their future endeavors will still be done in partnership with SHORE, he firmly believes that his office is prepared to venture into assisting other communities.
However, it will take time before COSCA and SHORE leave the partner communities to independently pursue and sustain the efforts they began. Until then, Tadena hopes that other units of DLSU would gain interest in the project and become more involved through volunteer efforts.