Balancing Environmental, Social, and Economic Sustainability in the Lingayen Gulf


Noel Legaspi


    The Philippines contains one of the most diverse coral reef systems in the world within the Lingayen Gulf. However, this biodiversity is threatened by anthropocentric activities such as overfishing, pollution, tourism, and a multitude of other direct and indirect problems. In order for the ecosystems of the Lingayen Gulf to coexist with humanity, planning for sustainability must be initiated. While it may be convenient to view the Lingayen Gulf from the standpoint of environmental sustainability, socioeconomic sustainability must also be taken into account. A balance between environmental, economic, and social sustainability is the key to planning success. Improved regulations, better education, and alternative livelihoods for the people will allow successful environmental sustainability, while maintaining socioeconomic sustainability. While the potential is present, the Philippines still has a long way to go before a sustainable Lingayen Gulf is reached. 


The Philippines is an archipelago in the South China Sea that consists of approximately 7100 islands (Gomez, et al. 1989). The nation suffers from being a less-developed country where the majority of the people struggle to survive through any means possible. The people are forced to resort to unorthodox fishing techniques in order to obtain income and protein to feed their families. Environmental regulation and awareness does not characterize the Philippines. While environmental regulations have been passed and are in the law books, enforcement of legislation proves to be difficult. The Philippine government does not have the resources to undertake environmental protection (Vande Vusse, 1989). Social and economic sustainability has not yet been achieved to any appreciable degree, therefore environmental efforts are not the main concern of the government or the people (Goodland and Daly, 1996). In addition, a multitude of other barriers to balanced sustainability exist (Dovers and Handmer, 1992). This paper will address the general obstacles of sustainability present in the Philippines by looking at the Lingayen Gulf, a microcosm of ecosystems and problems that represent the Philippines and Southeast Asia.


 A reason why the Lingayen Gulf is the center of a heated debate between politicians, environmentalists, and fishermen is the diverse coral reef system that lies in the gulf. Not only are the reefs a home to one of the most diverse marine communities in the world, but the reefs are also the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of towns that surround the Lingayen Gulf. Annual landings of recent years are responsible for earnings of $10 million each year in the commercial and private fishing sector (Gomez, et al. 1989; Ochavillo, et al. 1989). What may be the biggest threat of the reefs in the Lingayen Gulf are the common fishers and the 26 commercial fishing companies who engage in mostly unregulated, cutthroat fishing. Thus, the reefs have been overexploited not only from overfishing itself, but also the methods used to capture fish. Common methods to capture fish in the Lingayen Gulf include blasting, and cyanide. However, commercial fishers prefer trawling to capture fish because the large yields produced. Unfortunately for the reef system in the Lingayen Gulf, many fishing methods such as blasting, cyanide, and trawling are non-discriminatory; in other words, blasting, cyanide, and trawling affect all reef life and not just the particular fish that fishers are targeting (Ochavillo, et al. 1989). With the massive exploitation of the Lingayen Gulf by commercial fisheries, artisan fishers and peasants who depend on the Gulf to provide food for themselves and their family are struggling to compete for marine resources, resorting to Malthusian overfishing (Dayton, et al. 1995). Malthusian overfishing illustrates the imbalance of sustainability in the Lingayen Gulf; fisherman are using any means possible to obtain fish: blasting, cyanide, etc. in order to obtain fish. Such cutthroat tactics are resorted to because commercial trawling has drastically reduced the numbers of several fish species available to common fishers (Ochavillo, et al. 1989).

Unregulated Pollution
The Lingayen Gulf also suffers from pollution from point and non-point sources and runoff. Microbial contamination, fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals, silt, and untreated sewage are the main pollutants of the Lingayen Gulf (Guarin, 1991). Pollution has caused a multitude of problems for the Lingayen Gulf, including eutrophication of coastal areas, deaths of marine life, sedimentation, and destruction of the physical habitat (Guarin, 1991). Pollution not only threatens marine life in the Lingayen Gulf, but also threatens the livelihood of all who depend on the marine life for survival. One of the main culprits in terms of pollution is the Philippine government who has not taken any serious steps in regulating the sources of pollution or studying the effects of pollution on the aquaculture of the surrounding waters. Pollution has been overshadowed by the more pressing problems of overfishing. However, pollution and pollution prevention deserve more attention because as developing industries in the Philippines grow with little or no regulation, the pollution problem can only get worse (Soegiarto, 1994).

Tourism: Curse or Blessing?
Tourism illustrates the conflict between social and environmental sustainability. While tourism can infuse much needed revenue to the Lingayen Gulf region, tourism also contributes to the degradation of the coral reef system (Paw, et al. 1991). Scuba divers looking for souvenirs from the reefs and fishermen that participate in sport fishing pose further problems to the Lingayen Gulf. Participants in tropical fish trade exploit Philippine stocks of tropical fish due to little or no regulation (Rubec, 1986). Tourism throughout the world in general, not just tourism in the Philippines, pose a threat. Many coastal areas around the world sell sea shells and coral harvested in the Philippines in souvenir shops. Tourism, while very important to the economic sustainability of the Lingayen Gulf area, must be regulated to stop coral reef deterioration (Paw, et al. 1991).

Aquarium Fishing
The Philippines has been popular with fish collectors since the 1950’s (Rubec, 1986). The Philippines has 2,177 marine fish species in its waters that interests fish collectors (Rubec, 1986). Unfortunately, aquarium fishing disrupts reef communities not only by removing species, but also the techniques that are used. Cyanide fishing is used widely to supply the multibillion dollar market created by tropical fish collectors (Hunt, 1996). Since cyanide is damaging to the entire coral reef community, alternatives to cyanide must be found and aquarium fishing must be regulated.

Mangroves and Aquaculture
Like many areas of Southeast Asia, mangrove forests in the Lingayen Gulf are threatened by human development, particularly unregulated aquaculture development. About 2,000 km2 of Philippine mangroves have been transformed into ponds for fish and shrimp aquaculture.

The danger of serious environmental degradation is very real in the Lingayen Gulf. International organizations such as ICLARM (International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management), Haribon (a large grassroots environmental group) and CRMP (ASEAN/US Coastal Resources Management Project) have become aware of the situation and are attempting to find solutions to the multitude of problems facing the Lingayen Gulf. The urgency with which the Lingayen Gulf must be sustained is evident with the formation of the Lingayen Gulf Coastal Area Management Commission (LGCAMC), the Presidential Committee on Anti-Illegal Fishing and Fishery Management, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Coastal Environment Protection, and the proclamation of the Lingayen Gulf as an environmentally critical area by President Ramos (Ramos).

How can the reef environment of the Lingayen Gulf be sustained while simultaneously supporting thousands of people who rely on the Lingayen Gulf for their livelihood? In this report, I will identify the most urgent problems of the Lingayen Gulf and explore possible alternatives to unregulated fishing, pollution, and tourism, in the hope that the Lingayen Gulf may someday be able to balance environmental, social, and economic sustainability. I will also explore the actual habitat of the Lingayen Gulf and the circumstances under which the people of the region live.

Social Aspects

Social sustainability must be met before environmental and economic sustainability can be achieved. Before a country can move forward with sustaining the environment through restriction (fishing limitations for instance), the people who depend on the environment must be able to sustain themselves (Goodland and Daly, 1996). The conditions in the Lingayen Gulf do not provide an atmosphere where social sustainability can be achieved successfully; a high density of people, low incomes, extreme poverty, heavy competition between private fishers and commercial fishers, and malnutrition are not conducive to social sustainability (Silvestre, et al. 1991). Handline fishers average about US$2.00/day, with US$1.75 profit (with costs factored in) (Vande Vusse, 1991). Fifty percent of the Lingayen Gulf area population is below the poverty line, averaging US$128-180 per month (Paw, et al. 1991).

Under such conditions, the people are merely trying to survive. When people are faced with the choice to protect the environment and survive, survival will obviously be their priority. The task that must be undertaken is how to support the 2.5 million people (Paw, et al., 1991) surrounding the Lingayen Gulf with minimal impact on the surrounding environment.


It is evident from the people themselves that they lack the education necessary to understand the effect they have on the environment. Blast fishing, cyanide, and other unregulated fishing techniques produce large yields because of the ability of these methods to effectively harvest all marine life in a given area. Thus, fishers simply pick up the unconscious and stunned fish who cannot swim away (Rubec, 1986). The technique sounds simple and convenient enough for the fishers to turn in high yields of fish, but these unorthodox fishing techniques are non-discriminatory. Cyanide, blast fishing, and trawling damage the very coral reefs that many fish species depend on. Eventually, the reefs will be damaged to the point where the fish can no longer be supported (Rubec, 1986), resulting in a drop in yield. While fishers initially enjoy high yields with blast fishing and cyanide, fishers are simultaneously destroying the habitat of the fish that they depend on, thus eliminating a habitat that could have provided a long-term fishery if managed correctly. The fish that are then caught are eaten, thus poisoning the people (Rubec, 1986). There is an obvious solution to this problem: enforcing regulations on unorthodox fishing methods that may be harmful to coral reefs. However, the government does not have the resources to enforce such regulations. Ultimately, the fate of the coral reefs and the marine life of the Lingayen Gulf lies in the hand of the people who depend on it.

Environmental education is vital to the survival of the Lingayen Gulf. The people need to know that their actions are having a detrimental effect on the Lingayen Gulf and environmental regulations are necessary. A main problem with environmental regulation is that people only see regulation as a limitation on their livelihood. Environmentalists and government officials must show that regulation is actually an attempt to preserve the coral reef habitat of the Lingayen Gulf to ensure that fisheries will continue to supply a sustainable future. Unfortunately, environmental education is not wide spread with 10% of fishing in the Lingayen Gulf employs blast fishing as the method of capture (Silvestre, et al., 1991). Environmental education is needed to make people think about the future and ways to prevent irreversible destruction of the coral reef system in the Lingayen Gulf.

Alternative Methods of Sustainability

An alternative source of income and food must be provided to the people around the Lingayen Gulf if the people are to accept environmental protection and regulation. Environmental regulations will place limits on the amount of fish that are available to the people so alternative sources of income and food such as farming or jobs must be implemented. Presently, the people who live around the Lingayen Gulf rely solely on the marine life supported by the coral reefs. Very few other opportunities are available to people around the Lingayen Gulf who are mostly at or below the poverty level (Silvestre, et al., 1991).

Ultimately, the goal of social sustainability is to contribute to the overall environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the Lingayen Gulf. Using Goodland and Daly’s Input-Output Rules, "the harvest rates of renewable resources should be with in the regenerative capacity of the natural system that regenerates them. (Goodland and Daly, 1996)" With low and declining catch rates (Silvestre, et al. 1991)and 71% of Philippine reefs in poor to fair condition (Rubec, 1986), the harvest rates are not within the regenerative capacity of the coral reef system. Clearly, social sustainability problems are pressing issues in the Lingayen Gulf and must be dealt with by the government, environmental groups, and most importantly, the people if the Lingayen Gulf is to accommodate a sustainable ecosystem.

Technical Aspects

Before any attempt can be made at improving the situation of the Lingayen Gulf, an understanding of harmful anthropocentric processes and the affected natural ecosystem is needed. Table TA-1 illustrates the situation in the Lingayen Gulf in terms of sustainability according to Goodland and Daly’s Input-Output Rules.
  Definition: Situation in the Lingayen Gulf:
Input Rule for 

Renewable Resources

The harvest rates of renewable resources SHOULD BE WITHIN the regenerative capacity of the natural system that regenerates them (Goodland and Daly, 1996).  The Lingayen Gulf suffers from low and declining catch rates, high extraction rates, indiscriminate fishing, resulting in habitat destruction and changes in faunal composition (Silvestre, et al. 1991).
Output Rule Waste emissions SHOULD BE WITHIN the assimilative capacity of the local environment to absorb without unacceptable degradation of its future waste absorption capacity or other important services Goodland and Daly, 1996). The Lingayen Gulf suffers from microbial contamination (from untreated sewage), fertilizer and pesticide runoff, mining waste, siltation, industrial and municipal waste water discharge, and solid wastes that are adversely affecting the reef system (Guarin, 1991; Soegiarto, 1994).
Table TA-1. A summary of Goodland and Daly’s Input-Output Rules and its application to the Lingayen Gulf (Goodland and Daly, 1996; Guarin, 1991; Silvestre, et al. 1991; Soegiarto, 1994).

Directly Targeted Fish Species
The Lingayen Gulf reef system supports a wide variety of fish that are the prime targets of private and commercial fishers. Like most of Southeast Asia, fish protein composes more than 50% of an individual’s diet (Hunt, 1998). Thus, fishing in the Philippines and most of Asia is more important than many areas of the world.

Economically and socially viable species of fish are targeted in the Lingayen Gulf by both private and commercial fishers. A well known fish targeted in the Lingayen Gulf is Chanos chanos or milkfish which is a Filipino food delicacy (Paw, et al. 1991). Other fish targets for human consumption include Leiognathus bindus or orange-fin ponyfish; Selsroides leptolepis or yellow-striped trevally; and Dussumieria acuta or rainbow sardine (Ochavillo, et al. 1991). Aquarium fishing targets aesthetically valuable fish for collectors such as Euxiphipops navarachus or majestic angelfish and Dascyllus trimaculatus or domino damselfish (Rubec 1986). The removal of particular species of fish result in explosive growth of algae since the primary consumers of algae, the targeted fish, are no longer present to keep the algae in check (Hinrichson, 1997).

Coral Reef System
Coral reefs in the Philippines are very diverse and do not merely support the fish targeted by fishers. The extraction of fish for human consumption affects the other marine life that are part of the coral reef system. There are over 600 species of coral and most take hundreds and even thousand of years to develop (Hinrichson, 1997). The development of the coral reefs include not only the reefs themselves, but also the communities that are supported them. The highly complex and organized reef communities are fragile and disturbance of just one part of the community can have adverse affects on the entire reef system (Hinrichson, 1997). An illustration of this tightly-knit and fragile community deals with the parrot fish and sea urchins that are instrumental in the maintenance of the coral reef community. Many private fishers target parrot fish and urchins and likewise remove the cleaning agents of the reefs. With parrot fish and urchins no longer present in large numbers, algae blooms overwhelm the reefs (Hinrichson, 1997).

Coral reefs can be thought of as the rain forests of the sea, supporting up to one million species of plants and animals (Hinrichson, 1997). Like rain forests, coral reefs have the potential of providing medicines and cures to diseases and cancers that cannot be cured with conventional medicine. For instance, a substance in a red sea sponge, a coral reef resident, could help fight the AIDS virus (IRDC, 1996). Also, like the rain forest, many coral reef species have not yet been identified (IRDC, 1996). The reefs in the Philippines, including the Lingayen Gulf have the highest marine fish species diversity of all reef areas (Rubec, 1986). A main reason why coral reefs are so important is because coral reefs can produce "high-quality protein from essentially empty sea water." (Hinrichson, 1997) The actual process behind such high efficiency deals with the ability for the coral reef community to recycle its wastes. The high efficiency allows high numbers of marine species to be self-sustaining. The high amounts of fish in species and quantity are what draw fishers to coral reefs like the Lingayen Gulf. The International Development Research Centre in Canada estimates that "a healthy reef the length of a football field can feed 800 people a year; a deteriorated reef can only support 200 [people] (IRDC, 1996). Unfortunately, 71% of Philippine reefs are in poor to fair condition (Rubec, 1986). While reefs have the capacity to provide a great amount of protein for the people surrounding the Lingayen Gulf, present methods to tame and control the coral reefs system pose serious risks to the continuation of the vital coral reef system in the Lingayen Gulf.

Mangroves and Aquaculture

Less than a quarter of the original half a million hectares of mangrove forests remain in the Philippines (Gomez, 1989). About 2,000 km2 of Philippine mangroves have been transformed into ponds for fish and shrimp aquaculture (Gomez, 1989). The Lingayen Gulf region has a large problem with illegal aquaculture where large tracks of mangroves are converted to aquaculture fishpens without proper planning (Micua, 1997). Aquaculture, while able to supplement marine protein sources from the ocean, must be planned properly in order to preserve the remaining mangrove forests around the Lingayen Gulf. Illegal aquaculture threatens the Lingayen Gulf because of the large amounts of waste generated from aquaculture operations and the loss of valuable mangrove forests.

What can happen with improperly planned aquaculture? Not only will mangrove forests be cleared, but eutrophication of the surrounding waters may occur (Costa-Pierce, 1998). Excess waste produced by fish waste and uneaten fish meal are responsible for excess nutrients that lead to eutrophication. Eutrophication leads to the overwhelming of coral reefs by algae blooms and red tides. With excess waste, sedimentation may also occur, smothering the coral reefs (Costa-Pierce, 1998). Another problem of aquaculture is the use of antibiotics to combat fish disease. While fish ponds and cages will be initially free of disease, bacteria will eventually adapt and become resistant to the antibiotics (Micua, 1997). With much of the world finding that antibiotics are no longer effective in fighting bacteria, adding antibiotics will not solve aquaculture disease for a long period of time.

There is a negative socioeconomic aspect to aquaculture in addition to environmental degredation. Aquaculture gives the illusion that protein can obtained solely from manmade ponds and that the ocean does not have to be maintained since protein can be provided for through "fish farming." Protecting the ocean would no longer be pursued since people would believe that aquaculture could supply all the protein they need. Aquaculture must be portrayed as merely a supplement, not a substitute, for oceanic fish yields.

Why is mangrove preservation so important? Mangroves provide watershed stabilization, coastal protection, fish habitats, and habitats for other marine organisms dependent on detritus (Costa-Pierce, 1998). Mangrove forests provide detritus to many organism dependent on such organic material. Mangroves have the ability to transform inorganic matter into organic nutrients or detritus (Costa-Pierce, 1998). The mangroves help support the marine habitats in the Lingayen Gulf and unregulated clearing of mangrove forests could upset the natural balance between mangroves and marine habitats.

Economic and Social Overfishing
While the term overfishing implies a simple definition, the meaning of overfishing depends on the perspective. Table TA-2 summarizes three main categories of overfishing.
Biological overfishing Excessive fishing effort that leads to: 
  1. yields that are lower than what the stock can maximally sustain
  2. the impairment of the reproductive capacity or sustainability of the stock
  3. undesirable species composition changes
(Silvestre, et al. 1991)
Economic overfishing Occurs when fishing effort exceeds the level which will maximize rent from the resources (Silvestre, et al. 1991)
System overfishing "Optimum" societal benefits from the resources, given the biological, economic, social and political realities of the overall system affecting fisheries exploitation, were not achieved(Silvestre, et al. 1991)
Malthusian overfishing A desperate attempt to fish to survive where fishers destroy the environment that the fish and the fishers themselves depend on for survival using poisons, dynamite, etc. (Dayton, 1995)
Table TA-2. Summary of four perspectives of overfishing that correspond with Goodland and Daly’s definitions of sustainability and apply to the Lingayen Gulf region (Dayton, 1995; Goodland and Daly, 1996; Silvestre, et al. 1991).

The pure definitions given by Silvestre correlate with the actual situation in the Lingayen Gulf. In terms of biological overfishing, high extraction rates have led to low and declining catch rates. Faunal composition changes include an increase in squid abundance due to a decrease in predatory fish species; the disappearance of rays that are typically long-lived species; and a decline in large, high-valued species (Silvestre, et al. 1991). Economic overfishing is also a characteristic of the Lingayen Gulf where pure profit from fisheries operations is negligible or negative. The presence of economic overfishing in the Lingayen Gulf is not only a problem in the Philippines, but in the world where in 1995 $124 billion was spent on obtaining $70 billion of fish. The remaining $54 billion was put forth by the world’s taxpayers to make up for the losses (Safina, 1995). With negligible or negative profits resulting from fishing operations (Silvestre, et al. 1991), mismanaged fishing practices burden the poor people of the Lingayen Gulf area with additional expenses.

The most problematic form of overfishing does not deal with figures or the ecosystem, but rather returns to the social aspects of the Lingayen Gulf. System or social overfishing is the realization that perceived benefits to fishing have not been achieved. The harsh reality of not being able to profit from the Lingayen Gulf has driven many private fishers into high competition, low income, extreme poverty, and malnutrition (Silvestre, 1991). Such deplorable social conditions results in fishing to merely survive or Malthusian overfishing (Dayton, 1995). Social overfishing may be the biggest threat to the Lingayen Gulf since it is the basis for all other types of overfishing.

Fishing Gear/Methods
There are a variety of methods used to capture fish in the Lingayen Gulf. These fishing methods do not take environmental precautions into account and are highly efficient at affecting all marine life in a given area, not just a fish species targeted by fishers. While there are over 28 types of fishing gear used in the Lingayen Gulf, net fishing (including trawling), blast fishing, and cyanide will be discussed because of their negative impacts on the coral reefs community. Table TA-3 shows specific types of fishing gear and how much of the total landings each fishing gear is responsible for.
Sector/Gear Type: % of Total Landings in the Lingayen Gulf:
Municipal 75.8
Gill net 34.6
Blast fishing 7.6
Hook and line 6.8
Lift net 6.4
Shrimp trawl 6.0
Danish seine 3.2
Beam trawl 3.2
Others 8.0
Commercial 24.2
Large trawl 4.4
Medium trawl 19.8
Total 100.0
Table TA-3. Sector/Gear type and corresponding catch percentage (Silvestre, et al. 1991).

The most conventional form of fishing, net fishing, is utilized heavily by Lingayen Gulf fishers. Trawling, which basically involves the dragging of a large net by a boat, entraps all marine life in a given area. Trawling is highly efficient and is responsible for high extraction rates (Ochavillo, et al. 1991). Unfortunately, trawling is indiscriminate and catches both targeted and non-targeted fish species (Dayton, et al. 1995). The non-targeted species are then discarded, resulting in unneeded destruction of marine life. Improper trawling may also damage or destroy the coral reefs that are at the bottom of the Lingayen Gulf. Municipal fishermen are strongly against trawling, not only because it is the main fishing method used by their competitors, but also the trawl’s indiscriminate characteristics. Commercial trawling leaves nothing for municipal and private fishers who rely on fish protein from the Lingayen Gulf for survival (Ochavillo, et al. 1991). Another form of net fishing is the gill net, which involves leaving a large net close to ocean floor a period of time so that fish can accumulate within the net. The gill net accounts for the highest percentage of fish caught by municipal fishers (Calud, et al. 1991; Silvestre, et al. 1991). While the gill net is not as damaging as the trawl because it does not dredge the ocean floor, the gill net is indiscriminate. Like the trawl, the gill net does not screen for a particular type of fish. Any marine life that swims into a gill net is trapped.

Blast fishing accounts for 7-10% of the total catch in the Lingayen Gulf (Silvestre, et al. 1991). Like net fishing, blast fishing is indiscriminate. In fact, blast fishing not only affects free swimming marine life, but also the entire structure of the marine ecosystems. Blast fishing may be the most damaging form of fishing in the Lingayen Gulf because once an area has been blasted, the entire area is reduced to nothing . With net fishing, an area that is fished is usually not totally destroyed and is usually given a chance to recover. With blasting, every aspect of the reef community within the radius of the explosive is destroyed. In particular, spawning grounds are also destroyed so an area, even if given time, will not likely recover (Coral Reef Alliance).

Cyanide fishing uses the same strategy as blast fishing. While certain species are targeted for aquarium fishers, the strategy is to stun the whole community in order to obtain the species (Rubec, 1986). The stunned fish are stunned for a short period of time, but long enough for aquarium fishers to harvest them for export to collectors in North America and Europe (Hunt, 1996). While the effect of cyanide on targeted fish is temporary, the effect of cyanide on the entire reef community is disastrous. Cyanide poisons other marine life, including the corals themselves. Frequent exposure to cyanide over time causes a buildup within some marine life. The buildup of cyanide has consequences with commercial and municipal fishing industry where the very fish that people consume may be laced with cyanide (Rubec, 1986). Cyanide effects on coral reefs are not as damaging as fish exposure to cyanide, but are dangerous nonetheless. Some corals appear to resist cyanide damage, but other corals die within a month to four months after exposure (Rubec, 1986). Cyanide effects on humans are obvious and being exposed to cyanide from sea water or fish itself has proven deadly to cyanide fishers themselves (Rubec, 1986). Like blast fishing, cyanide has the ability to wipe out entire coral reef communities.


Sewage constitutes the most prevalent form of pollution in the Lingayen Gulf, as well as the Philippines. Sewage treatment plants are virtually non-existent and raw sewage is dumped directly to the ocean (Guarin, 1991). The dumping of untreated sewage has resulted in the eutrophication of coastal waters and an increase in red tides, making seafood unsafe to eat (Soegiarto, 1994). Coliform levels in the Lingayen Gulf indicate the presence of pathogens, which threatens the health of not only the people that live in the Lingayen Gulf, but also the marine life (Soegiarto, 1994).

Highly toxic chemicals find their way into the Lingayen Gulf through fertilizer and pesticide runoff, caused by frequent flooding and rain. Fertilizers and pesticides are used heavily in agriculture and aquaculture and are unregulated (Guarin, 1991). Some toxic chemicals used as fertilizers and pesticides include organochlorine, organophosphate, dieldrin, and aldrin, which are all suspected carcinogens, endangering not only the people around the Lingayen Gulf, but also the marine life (Guarin, 1991). Low concentrations of these chemicals have proven to be fatal and can build up in the fatty tissues of marine organisms. Another source of toxic chemicals are oil spills that are common throughout the Philippines, due to a lack of regulations. Oil, like pesticides and fertilizers, build up in the fatty tissues of marine organisms and cause reproductive harm to the affected organism.

Siltation is a problem related to other environmental problems of the Philippines. Strip mining and clear cutting have allowed large volumes of silt and sediment to be deposited in the Lingayen Gulf, since there is no more vegetation to keep the soil in its place (Guarin, 1991). Not only does siltation decrease the passage ways for ships, but siltation also smothers coral reefs (Soegiarto, 1994).

Solid waste dumping in the Lingayen Gulf is prevalent due to poor waste management efforts by the government. Much of the solid waste is dumped in rivers that feed into the Lingayen Gulf (Soegiarto, 1994) and eventually find their way to coral reefs, serving to smother coral reef communities in the same fashion as siltation.

Industrial wastes are not a big factor in the Lingayen Gulf. However, industrial growth should be monitored since little or no regulation exists to control industrial dumping. If industry is able to grow quickly in the Lingayen Gulf region, industrial discharges will increase (Guarin, 1991).

Causes for Environmental Disaster in the Lingayen Gulf

The situation in the Lingayen Gulf is very bleak in terms of damage to the coral reef environment and water quality. Why is the Lingayen Gulf in such poor condition? Fishing methods and pollution are to blame for most of the damage, but who is responsible for such damaging activities? Governmental regulations, industry, public mentality, and the social environment of the Philippines are all major culprits in causing serious damage to marine life in the Lingayen Gulf. In order to propose ideas to protect the marine life of the Lingayen Gulf, "fingers must be pointed" towards those responsible for engaging in destructive activities.

Problems & Opportunities

Why has the Lingayen Gulf evolved from a pristine marine habitat into a over stressed fishing ground? The situation in the Lingayen Gulf is so complex that there cannot be a single source of the problems that were presented in the technological aspects portion of this report. Socioeconomic, political, and technological constraints are all barriers to a sustainable Lingayen Gulf

The Philippine government is a main contributor to the problems in the Lingayen Gulf. Actions that the government hasn’t implemented are of particular concern. Government regulations on overfishing and pollution are few or nonexistent (Vande Vusse, 1991). Regulations that are in place are rarely enforced. For instance, while blast fishing is highly damaging to the coral reef system in the Lingayen Gulf, and there are Philippine laws making blast fishing illegal, blast fishing continues to account for 10% of municipal fisher landings annually (Silvestre, et al. 1991). The lack of enforcement gives fishers virtually "free reign" over the Lingayen Gulf fishing grounds. The regulations that do exist are limited and do not do enough to protect the natural resources (Vande Vusse, 1991). Table P-1 illustrates existing Philippine regulations of fishing.
Communal Management: Private Property Rights:
Municipal waters (5.6 km from shore) Oyster/mussel farm permit
Trawl/purse seine ban (7 km from shore) Seaweed farm permit
Minimum mesh size Fish corral permit
Closed Seasons Fishpond lease agreement
Prohibit explosives/poisons Fish cage/pen permit
Coral collection/export ban Bangus fry concession
Muro-ami net ban  
Commercial hulbot-hulbot ban  
National fish sanctuary  
Table P-1. Some existing Philippine fisheries regulations (Vande Vusse, 1991).

Table P-1 shows how ineffective fishing regulations are in the Philippines. Virtually all communal management regulations have been violated. Some examples are:

The Philippine government must take a more aggressive stance towards illegal fishing and pollution discharges. While present regulations are aiming for better conditions in the Lingayen Gulf, more stringent fishing regulations combined with more effective enforcement could protect the Lingayen Gulf coral reef system further and still ensure the livelihoods of fishers. Table P-2 suggests some modifications and additions to existing regulations.
Communal Management: Private Property Rights:
Municipal marine sanctuary Stewardship Contract (SC) over reforested mangrove areas
Mangrove forest management SC for existing mangroves
Community-based contract Sea ranching permit
Reforestation in mangroves Other sea farming permits
Mollusk harvest regulations Family artificial reef cluster
Communal artificial reef areas with AR-based sanctuaries Fish aggregating device (FAD) permit
Table P-2. Some proposed fisheries management measures to replace lax fishing regulations presented in Table P-1 (Vande Vusse, 1991).

The Philippine government obviously does not consider preserving marine habitats a primary concern. Evidence of the Philippine governments’ apathy towards marine resource protection is the lax enforcement of weak environmental regulations and lax attitude to recommendations to environmentalists (Micua, 1997; Vande Vusse, 1991). With the Philippines’ great dependence on marine resources for income and protein, protecting marine habitats is the only way to improve the conditions of many fishing-dependent communities, like the Lingayen Gulf area. Should the Philippine government lack the resources to undertake the massive task of reorganizing and maintaining the valuable marine resources of the Philippines, private organizations should be considered as protectors and regulators of marine resources.

A multitude of non-profit organizations whose sole purpose is to protect coral reefs should be looked to for help in writing regulations and enforcing them. These organizations can provide valuable insights into sustainability goals. Such organizations include Haribon, a grassroots environmental movement, who members are committed to community based action programs and community environmental awareness in the Philippines (Haribon Foundation, 1972). ICLARM, the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, provides a wealth of information about the Lingayen Gulf and provides in-depth analysis of particular problems facing the area from researchers and scientists dedicated to improving the situation in the Lingayen Gulf. In a country where governmental regulations and enforcement are virtually non-existent, non-profit organizations play a vital role in informing fishing communities about the environmental problems and finding ways to sustain both marine habitats and fisher livelihoods.


The economic problems that contribute to the problems of the Lingayen Gulf are partially the result of uneven economic development. Economic problems can also be tied into the social and political framework and problems of the Philippines. The Philippines is a developing nation where economic development can be a blessing to the millions of poverty stricken people. However, economic development, without governmental regulation, can spell environmental disaster. While industrial development does not presently have a major effect on the surrounding ecosystem, continued economic development without regulation could result in major changes in surrounding marine ecosystems (Soegiarto, 1994). For instance, growing industries can continue to expand and not worry about pollution controls. With the continued growth of industries, pollution discharges can only increase (Soegiarto, 1994). Table P-3 suggests some possible ways to improve the water quality of the Lingayen Gulf.
Proposed Solutions to Environmental Degradation in the Lingayen Gulf as a Result of Pollution:
1. Preparation of a master plan for sewage systems.
2. Water quality monitoring of the six major river systems discharging in the Lingayen Gulf.
3. Surveillance, enforcement, and monitoring of mining operations within the Baguio Mining District.
4. Epidemiological monitoring (microbial organisms).
5. Establishment of a pilot solid waste disposal system for urban centers.
6. Upper watershed management and rehabilitation plan.
7. Information-education campaign on environmental protection.
8. Training program to upgrade the technical capability of the research institutions and regulatory agencies within Lingayen Gulf.
Table P-3. Proposed solutions to pollution problems in the Lingayen Gulf (Guarin, 1991).

There are 2.5 million people surrounding the Lingayen Gulf that are dependent on the Lingayen Gulf for their livelihood. The dense population being supported by the Lingayen Gulf creates a very competitive environment for marine resources. Due to heavy competition, fishers are unable to make profits due to low marine biomass densities (Paw, et al. 1991). The low incomes lead to a population that earns US$128-180 monthly where over 50% are below the poverty line (Paw, et al. 1991).

Obviously, the marine resources in the Lingayen Gulf are unable to economically sustain the 2.5 million Lingayen Gulf residents. Alternate sources of income must be provided in order to relieve some stress on the Lingayen Gulf due to intense fisher competition. Alternative income sources could also mean a way out for poverty stricken fishers who continue to fish as a means of survival, not livelihood. Social sustainability, as previously discussed, is a delicate and difficult task for the region.

Tourism provides a large amount of revenue for the communities surrounding the Lingayen Gulf. The revenue generated can help the dire financial situation in the Lingayen Gulf area. However, tourism contributes to the very destruction of the reefs that tourists are interested in. Beach resort development endangers mangrove forests. Also, tourists wanting to take souvenirs of the coral reefs are actually destroying the marine habitat (Coral Reef Alliance, 1998).

Tourism revenue is important to the Lingayen Gulf area and tourism should by no means be prohibited. Tourism provides a way for people to learn about the situation in the Lingayen Gulf. Eco-tourism should be promoted where tourism "conserves environments and sustains the well-being of the local people (Jones, 1993)." Through eco-tourism people from around the world will become aware of the situation in the Lingayen Gulf and hopefully spurn changes in policy towards by the Philippine government. If the Philippine government sees that the Lingayen Gulf is a money maker for the Philippines, the more likely environmental regulations will be enforced and strengthened.


There is an imbalance of technology between municipal and commercial fishers. Commercial fishers have the resources to use fishing methods that are able to exploit large numbers of fish at one time such as the use of trawls. Municipal fishers have no access to trawls or the gears of commercial fishing fleets. Likewise, municipal fishers are forced to resort to high yielding, but damaging techniques such as gill nets, blast fishing and cyanide (Calud, et al. 1991; Ochavillo, et al. 1991; Rubec, 1986). However, modern, environmentally sensitive technology that is desperately needed in the Lingayen Gulf is not available to commercial and municipal fishers alike. Commercial and municipal fishers continue to utilize fishing techniques first used after World War II (Ochavillo, et al. 1991).

Regulations on trawling must be implemented and enforced to stop the unfair advantage of commercial fishers to municipal fishers. Trawl nets and gill nets that indiscriminately entrap marine life must be replaced with nets that only entrap the targeted fish and not other marine life. Alternatives to blast fishing and cyanide must be found and implemented to stop the physical degradation of the coral reefs. Training programs that emphasize net techniques instead of blasting and cyanide should be emphasized, as well as programs that encourage responsible trawling and gill net fishing (Rubec, 1986; IDRC, 1996).

While the Philippines is at a disadvantage in many technological areas, some basic techniques to helping the environment have surfaced. Artificial reefs and mangrove reforestation are some projects underway in the Lingayen Gulf area (Vande Vusse, 1991). The results of such environmentally sensitive projects are promising. Vande Vusse (1991) finds that "Filipino fishermen, who are reportedly very independent individuals, had no difficulty working together for a common cause with the proper motivation."

Lingayen Gulf: Opportunities for Change

Geronimo Ochavillo outlined the sustainability goals of the Lingayen Gulf the best. Ochavillo said, "the ultimate solution to most of the problems confronting the capture fisheries of Lingayen Gulf cannot be found within the fishing sector itself. (Ochavillo, et al. 1991)" In other words, for any change to occur, all aspects must be looked at; socioeconomic, political, and technological solutions must all be considered to solve the complex problem of sustainability in the Lingayen Gulf. Environmental sustainability, although a goal of many environmentalists, cannot be achieved without acknowledging socioeconomic needs (Goodland and Daly, 1996). Comprehensive management of fisheries, regulations, training, and education must be consolidated.

Some comprehensive management solutions have been suggested. Table P-4 and P-5 summarize some of suggested management goals.
Principles of Lingayen Gulf Marine Resource Management:
1. Keep the approach people-centered because fishermen manage the resource.
2. To identify the real problems, assess the perceived problems carefully from the perspective of the fishermen and the various aspects of resource management too.
3. Tie in fisheries development with overall community development and include the local government, line agencies, and nongovernmental organizations in the process.
4. Use simple appropriate technologies for resource management and harvest.
5. Start small and demonstrate success before attempting to expand significantly.
6. Begin with management activities that can be carried out effectively within the project sites to gain the people’s confidence before attempting to impose broader regulations.
7. Maintain flexibility so that learning can be used to improve the project as it progresses.
Table P-4. Recommendations for marine resource management in the Lingayen Gulf (Vande Vusse, 1991).

Issue-Oriented Action Plan:
1. Fisheries management plan- focuses on the sustainability of fisheries resources within the gulf and the enforcement of fishing regulations, boundaries and gear sizes, etc.
2. Environmental quality management plan- covers water quality, waste disposal and treatment, mine tailings and setting up of coastal water quality standards.
3. Aquaculture management plan- addresses intensification of brackish water pond production through appropriate technology transfer, expansion of mariculture activities and diversification of species for culture.
4. Community mobilization management plan- aims to address alternative livelihood for coastal communities, especially fishers that includes formation of associations or cooperatives as well as institution of public awareness programs for the gulf population.
5. Tourism management plan- covers tourism development and the conservation and preservation of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and other critical habitats providing options for their sustainable development including the rehabilitation of damaged ecosystems.
Table P-5. Suggested additions to regional development plans of the Lingayen Gulf (Paw, et al. 1991).

As the presented sustainability plans suggest, overall sustainability in the Lingayen Gulf can only be achieved when approached from all angles: environmental and socioeconomic. Only time will tell if these suggested management goals will be implemented or if any management strategies will be implemented at all. Convincing the Philippine government that pursuing Lingayen Gulf management goals is a worthwhile cause could be a problem. Even if suggested management goals are enacted, the government must have the institutional capability to monitor and enforce management goals (Paw, et al. 1991). Unfortunately, the Philippine government lacks the resources at this time.


Efforts to improve the situation in the Lingayen Gulf can only be effective if done correctly. The order in which reforms do take place is vital to successful rehabilitation of the Lingayen Gulf. For instance, if the government imposes regulations on the people without giving reasons, there will be large opposition by the people who don’t want their actions regulated. If regulations are to be effective and accepted, education must be the primary focus of environmental reform. Table R-1 gives a summary of a planned course of action for the Lingayen Gulf
Recommended Actions for a Sustainable Lingayen Gulf:
1. education
2. alternative source of income/food
3. government imposed regulations
4. enforcement and monitoring of regulations by the government and non-governmental organizations
Table R-1. A summary of a planned course of action for the Lingayen Gulf, ranked in order of importance.

As previously mentioned, education must come at the forefront of Lingayen Gulf reforms. In order for people to accept any environmental regulation, the people must have a basic understanding about the situation in the Lingayen Gulf. If people know the severity of the situation in the Lingayen Gulf and know how they contribute to the Lingayen Gulf’s problems, the more likely people will be open to lifestyle change and government regulation. Education also includes informing the government of environmental problems of the Philippines. The government will not act unless it can be convinced that a serious problem exists that is worthy of government intervention.

How the 2.5 million residents in the Lingayen Gulf area be educated? Grassroots, door-to-door efforts should be utilizes where the people are not intimidated by researchers and government officials. The situation in the Lingayen Gulf needs to be explained in plain and simple terms that are easy for the people to understand. Pamphlets, billboards, local television ads, and radio announcements can also be used to give plain facts to the people. The people can then independently decide whether or not government regulations and environmental considerations can be justified.

An promising area for the Lingayen Gulf is mangrove restoration. Communities actively take part in restoring mangrove habitats in carefully chosen areas around the Lingayen Gulf (Vande Vusse, 1991). When the mangrove forests mature, sustainable harvesting of wood will occur, while simultaneously providing a habitat for marine life. Protection of the mangroves are a priority for the community and the local government since the people and the government understand the importance of mangroves and know that mangroves are more valuable than any aquaculture pond or development (Vande Vusse, 1991). As long as the people and local government know about the value of the mangroves, illegal aquaculture pond construction should not occur.

Another encouraging sign that environmental education is effective is the interest of the people. After a particular community’s involvement in the restoration of mangroves and placement of artificial reefs, the people wanted to know more about what they could do to preserve the surrounding habitat (Vande Vusse, 1991).

2. Alternate source of income/food

Once the people are aware of need for environmental reform, a substitute for their livelihoods must be provided. Fishing has provided the residents of the Lingayen Gulf area with not only a source of income, but also a source of protein. Alternatives must be able to provide a decent source of income and source of protein or a way to obtain protein.

Agriculture is an option for some people, but should not be the sole alternative to fishing for the Lingayen Gulf fishers. Agriculture, while a proven way to obtain income and protein simultaneously, is limited by the amount of land in the Philippines. A variety of options should be open to the people.

The economy of the Philippines has been compared to the next Hong Kong. New industries and businesses from around the world have begun to invest in the Philippines and offer opportunities for the people. The need for labor in industries can provide a source of significantly higher income for the Lingayen Gulf residents as opposed to municipal fishing. The increase in income can finance external sources of protein (i.e.- buying protein commercially). The drawbacks of supporting the economy and industry of the Philippines is that there are few regulations on pollution from industry in the Philippines, and extensive growth of industry can also have detrimental effects on the Lingayen Gulf ecosystem. Instead of overfishing, industry will pose a pollution problem which can be addressed through regulations.

3. Government imposed regulations

Once the government is convinced of the problems facing the Lingayen Gulf and all Philippine waterways, extensive regulations must be implemented (as outlines in the Problems and Opportunities portion of this report). With educated Lingayen Gulf residents, environmental regulations can be implemented with less protest. Regulations must be comprehensive and cover all aspects of the problems facing the Lingayen Gulf. However, the regulations must also take the rights of fishers into account. For instance, fishing yields must be controlled to allow fish stocks to recover, yet fishers should still be allowed to catch a reasonable amount of fish. Regulations should be tight enough to sustain the Lingayen Gulf ecosystem, yet loose enough to allow fishers to obtain reasonable yields. Vande Vusse (1991) states, "fishermen will respond positively to activities that clearly address a need, that have minimal risk to them and that make sense (are known to work)."

Regulations should be based on carefully collected data from professional environmental groups, such as ICLARM, and governmental organizations. The regulations should have scientific backing and not be "best guesses" about what would be good for the environment or not. For instance, placing a limit on a popular stock of fish that isn’t endangered. Such a regulation does not help the ecosystem and negatively impacts social sustainability.

4. Enforcement and monitoring of regulations by the government and non-governmental organizations

For regulations to be effective, set regulations must be acknowledged and obeyed by the people. To ensure regulations are being obeyed, law enforcement handled by the government should be consistent and violations to regulations should be adequately punished. However, the Philippine government has many problems bureaucratically and financially. The environment may not seem to be worth the focus of the government’s attention. To make up the shortage of enforcement, non governmental agencies who are genuinely dedicated to preserving the Lingayen Gulf should be looked to. These non governmental agencies can supplement governmental efforts to halt pollution, overfishing, and other anthropocentric environmental problems.

The regulations enacted must also be constantly monitored for their validity. Regulations should correspond with the needs of the Lingayen Gulf at a particular time. For instance, if a fish stock rebounds from low numbers due to fishing limits, the fishing limits should be lesser in order to allow fishers to once again benefit from the fish. There is no use in creating permanent limitations on fishing once a stock has rebounded. The limitations should be proportional to the size and need of a particular species. Also, regulations should be updated and amended according to the conditions in the Lingayen Gulf.

Modern sustainability is not a simple task, as is illustrated by the Lingayen Gulf. The ultimate fate of the Lingayen Gulf lies in the hands of the people and nongovernmental organizations who will actually make the decision to either protect the Lingayen Gulf or allow the degradation of the Lingayen Gulf to continue. The facts have been presented and the livelihoods and future of the people of the Lingayen Gulf essentially lies in their hands.

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