Reflections on Community Based Coastal Resources Management (CB-CRM) in the Philippines and South-East Asia | Non Governmental Organization | Fisheries Management

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Small-scale fishing is an important source of food and livelihoods for millions of rural poor people in South-East Asia. Yet fisheries management has tended to diminish access of the rural poor to fishing grounds in favour of commercial operations. This paper describes how civil society action was instrumental in creating change in national fisheries policies in the Philippines. A system of community-based coastal resource management was adopted, with the aim of ensuring better access and influence over resource management for poor fishing communities. Although reported impacts have been modest, the changes have supported some regrowth in the small-scale fishing industry, as well as other gains, and the approach is being adopted in other countries. These gains are threatened by intense competition for fishing access, the development of export-oriented aquaculture industries, and WTO support for fisheries liberalisation. Sustained advocacy for the protection of small-scale fisher livelihoods is required at national and global levels.
    Reflections on Community Based Coastal Resources Management (CB-CRM) in the Philippines and South-East Asia Leo van Mulekom Fisheries in South-East Asia Fish is an important commodity globally. The world’s fisheries produce approximately $120 billion per year. Fishery products are also heavily traded on the international market with an estimated trade value of $58 billion annually. Developing countries account for 50 per cent of the total volume of this traded fish, but only a third in terms of value. Much of the fish is traded as fishmeal or fish-oil. Fishery products represent the single biggest food item from which developing countries earn their export income (FAO SOFI 2005). The fisheries sector is also domestically very important in developing countries. Consumption levels are typically 3-4 times higher compared to developed countries, and almost 500 million people find direct and indirect employment in the sector. Yet, 95 per cent of the labour force survives on $2 per day or less (World Bank, 2004). For some 2.6 billion people, fish provides at least 20 per cent of the per capita protein consumption (Kelleher and Weber, 2006). In comparative terms, the total value of marine and coastal ecosystems to human welfare is about double that of terrestrial ecosystems (FAO, 2001). In South-East Asia, there are an estimated 12-20 million fishers; almost all are small scale, artisanal fishers (1 million fishers are connected to commercial fisheries). The region produces over $11 billion in fishery products, and earns around $7 billion from fishery exports. That contribution to the economy is higher than rice, coffee, sugar, tea, and bananas combined. (SEAFDEC 2001) In South-East Asia, small-scale fisheries contribute to domestic food security, provide employment especially in rural areas and generate export income; roughly, 15 per cent of the people depend on fishing as a significant source of income. The average per capita food-fish supply in ASEAN countries in 1997 was estimated at 22.9 kilos, with the average contribution of fish to animal protein intake estimated at 45 per cent. More then 300 million people in the region depend significantly on fish as a source of protein (SEAFDEC 2001). Yet, fisheries management is very weak. Resource use conflicts between small-scale fishers and commercial fleets abound. Illegal and unreported fishing is estimated to be 15 per cent of total catch volume. Indonesia, Cambodia, and Viet Nam allow foreign fleets to have access to their fishery resources. Over the past 40 years, standing fish stocks in South-East Asia have been reduced to less than a fourth of their former levels (Pauly et al.  2002, Pauly et al.  2005). This case study was written as a contribution to the development of From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World , Oxfam International 2008. It is published in order to share widely the results of commissioned research and programme experience. The views it expresses are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Oxfam International or its affiliate organisations.    Reflections on Community Based Coastal Resources Management in the Philippines & South-East Asia From Poverty to Power –   2 Declining fisheries resources in the Philippines The Philippines is home to some of the most diverse and rich coastal ecosystems. Fisheries have traditionally been a major livelihood in coastal rural areas. The country now has approximately 1-2 million fishers (those who fully or partially fish for income or food), and possibly a similar number of people who directly derive livelihood and income through processing and trading (Tambuyog, personal communication). The value to the national economy typically hovers around 5 per cent of GDP (BFAR 2003). Only decades ago, one needed merely to ‘push a bucket through the water to catch enough for a meal’ (quote from a fisher in Batangas province). However, since then the fishery has gradually declined into a meagre and difficult livelihood. Approximately 80 per cent of the small-scale fishers live below poverty thresholds (Green et al , 2003). Yet, at the same time, fisheries also provided a ‘last resort’ to those who encountered difficulties in land-based livelihoods. Disappearing fish and yet more fishers: this phenomenon is known as the ‘tragedy of the commons’ in fisheries literature (Pauly and Chua 1988, Pauly 1990). During the 1960s, the emphasis in development and policy interventions was on increasing catches through improved technology. This was also the time when fisheries policies were in place facilitating and accelerating the development of large-scale extractive industry (ADB 2006). The typical small-scale fisher, with a 3-6 metre boat, with or without a small outboard engine, became marginalised and faced increasing competition for smaller and smaller amounts of fish. During the 1980s and 1990s, new ideas were developed that looked at controlling fisheries and managing the fishery resource for optimal or maximum sustainable levels. Restrictions were put in place in the form of licenses and permits. Unfortunately, much was lacking in implementation. Development efforts focused, largely, on the capacity of governments to implement their policies (ADB 2006). Community Based Coastal Resource Management (CB-CRM) in the Philippines During this time, several universities and non-government agencies started to look at issues of access and control over fishing grounds. They highlighted the fact that encroachment of large-scale fisheries was, in effect, marginalising the small-scale sector, and that local fishing communities could very well have essential capacities and skills to manage coastal fisheries. In some pilot areas, a start was made in organising and training fisher folk for management tasks and, at the same time, advocating openness in government for devolving some of its management mandates to such communities. Community Based Coastal Resource Management (CB-CRM) was born (Christie and White 1997, White et al.  2005, Pomeroy 1994, van Mulekom 1999, Ferrer et al.  2001). In essence, this approach to fisheries development focused on localising fisheries management and giving fishers themselves a decision-making role in fisheries management. In virtually all projects, this aim was pursued through organising fishing communities, training them, assisting in ecosystem restoration, and seeking entry points into management tasks through fisher-based patrolling and monitoring (van Mulekom 1997, see Table 1). Many projects were implemented, and initial successes were frequently reported in terms of fish stocks and catch volumes increasing (Pomeroy et al.  1996, Alcala 1988, White 1988, Pomery and Carlos 1997, White et al.  1994).    Table 1: Diversity in CB-CRM projects in the Philippines based on 68 projects implemented between 1984-1994 in the Philippines (adapted from van Mulekom 1997; data source: Pomeroy and Carlos 1997). Sequence of strategies in CB-CRM projects Leading institution CO CO CO CO RMI CO/ETSD CO CO/RES CO/RES/ETSD CO/RES CO/RES/RAM RES/RAM RES/RMP ETSD RMP ETSD/RES RMP CO/ETSD RMI RMI RAM RMI ETSD ETSD CO RMI RES RMI RMP ETSD RES/RMP RMP RAM RMI RAM RAM RMP ETSD ETSD RMP RAM RMI RMI - - ETSD - - RMP - RMI RAM NGO NGO NGO NGO NGO NGO GOV ACA ACA ACA GOV ACA GOV/ACA Legend: CO = community organising RES = research RMP = resource management planning RMI = resource management implementation RAM = resource assessment and monitoring ETSD = education and training NGO = non government organisation GOV = government agency ACA = academe/university With significant support from a wide range of development organisations, including Oxfam GB and Oxfam Novib, the approach gained ground and wider application. Gradually, particularly during the 1990s, the concept ‘community-based’ gained ground and became an integral part of the intentions of government and international donor communities alike (PRIMEX-OAFIC 2002). With financial support from agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, CB-CRM development became a cornerstone of official policy, and examples already provided by NGOs (often in small remote villages) provided useful learning for officials (ADB 1993, Roldan and Sievert 1993). Fisher folk themselves were mobilised, and, under the impetus of NGOs, starting forming countrywide movements. Most notable among these movements, the fisher folk association ‘Kilusang Mangingisda’ developed (with Oxfam support) into what is now a nation-wide federation of approximately 400,000 members. All these efforts at organising, implementation, and advocacy led to an environment in which a substantial revision of national policies became politically feasible. The main fisheries laws in the Philippines, at the time, prescribed a fisheries management system that was highly centralised and based on the maximising catch-volumes. It did specify preferential access rights to small-scale fishers in waters just offshore. But all decisions regarding the allocation of fishing rights, the use of equipment and technology, the management of catch levels and ecosystem quality were all given to specific government departments. Provinces, municipalities, and fishers themselves, had no significant rights in fisheries management. Under inspiring leadership, especially of those NGOs supported by the Oxfam’s (van Mulekom 1997), the national government revised the fisheries law. In 1996, it started to put provisions in place that specifically mandated municipal jurisdiction over municipal fishing grounds and created municipal councils in which government agencies and fisher folk representatives now discuss and agree on local fisheries management provisions (van Mulekom 1997, 1999). By changing the fisheries law in 1998, localised Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (FARMCs) became mandatory Reflections on Community Based Coastal Resources Management in the Philippines & South-East Asia From Poverty to Power –   3    structures. In these councils, fisher representatives, local government officials, representatives from national line agencies (on environment and on fisheries), the private sector, and NGOs come together to discuss, review, and agree on local fisheries policies. Small and large fishers (if present) together hold, by law, at least 50 per cent of the membership of such councils. In 2003, a total of 94 per cent of all coastal municipalities and cities had an M/CFARMC, and 67 per cent of coastal villages had a BFARMC (Grutas, 2003). With such FARMCs in place, the main proposition of CB-CRM projects, namely that fishers themselves should have active decision-making powers in fisheries management, is significantly closer to reality. The national agency responsible for fisheries in the Philippines is the Bureau of Fisheries and  Aquatic Resources (BFAR), a line agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA). BFAR has a national office and regional offices in the sixteen geographic regions of the country. BFAR was integrated into the DA as a staff bureau (an agency providing advisory services on fisheries matters) in 1986. However, the Local Government Code (Republican Act 7160, 1991) brought about devolution of authority over fisheries matters to Local Government Units (LGUs). According to the Local Government Code, the LGU has the exclusive authority to grant fishery privileges (for oyster, mussel and other aquatic beds, milkfish fry areas and the issuance of licenses for fishing vessels of 3 gross tons or less) and impose rentals, fees or charges without the permission from any national agency (Republican Act 7160, 1991). In 1998, BFAR was reconstituted as a line bureau (an agency implementing fisheries policies and projects) under the DA through the passage of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 (Republican Act 8550, 1998). The Fisheries code proposed some new concepts, including the limitation of access to the fishery based on scientific decision, integrated management consistent with inter-LGU co-operation as articulated in the Local Government Code, and enhanced and institutionalised participation of the community in fisheries management through the establishment of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (FARMCs). Four major laws have governed fisheries management in the Philippines from the 1930s to the present: Act 4003 (1932), PD 704 (1975), the Local Government Code (Republican Act 7160, 1991), and the Fisheries Code (Republican Act 8550, 1998). These laws show a distinct devolution of management from central government to local levels of government (DENR-BFAR-DILG, 2001). The more recent of these laws are described in some detail below. The Local Government Code (Republican Act 7160, 1991) provides for genuine devolution of authority to local governments in fisheries management. The Code states that the municipality has the exclusive authority to grant fishery privileges and impose rentals, fees, or charges without approval or permission from any national agency. Such fishing privileges over fish corrals, oyster, mussel and other aquatic beds, milkfish fry, and fry of other species, and fishing with boats of 3 gross tons or less. The Code also states that LGUs ‘shall share with the National Government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction subject to the provisions of this code and national policies’. The Fisheries Code (Republic Act 8550, 1998) reiterated or improved the provisions of existing fishery laws and proposed new concepts, including: (a) limitation of access using scientifically determined procedures; (b) integrated management consistent with inter-LGU cooperation as articulated in the Local Government Code; and (c) enhanced and institutionalised participation by the community through the various levels of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (FARMCs). The Fisheries Code clarified issues pertaining to the extent of jurisdiction of LGUs in municipal waters and the operation of commercial fishing vessels therein. A key result of the passage of the Fisheries Code was the recognition of active participation of local fisher folk and coastal communities by stating that the establishment of Municipal FARMCs (MFARMCs) is obligatory ‘FARMCs shall be established in the national level and in all municipalities abutting municipal waters. The FARMCs shall be formed by fisher folk organisations/co-operatives and NGOs in the locality and be assisted by the LGUs and other government entities’. Reflections on Community Based Coastal Resources Management in the Philippines & South-East Asia From Poverty to Power –   4
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