Tubbataha Reef: A Long Reef Exposed At Low Tide

Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Since the discovery of the  Tubbataha in the late 1970s, it has been recognized as one of the most remarkable coral reefs on our planet. The CNN travel website, cnngo.com, ranks it as among the top eight dive sites in the world.

According to Wikipedia:

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Filipino: Bahurang Tubbataha) is a protected area of the Philippines located in the middle ofSulu Sea. The marine and bird sanctuary consists of two huge atolls (named the North Atoll and South Atoll) and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef covering a total area of 97,030 hectares (239,800 acres; 374.6 sq mi). It is located 150 kilometers (93 mi) southeast of Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan province.[2] The uninhabited islands and reefs are part of the island municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, located roughly 130 kilometers (81 mi) to the northeast of the reef.[2]

In December 1993, the UNESCO declared the Tubbataha Reefs National Park as a World Heritage Site as a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons, and two coral islands.[3] In 1999, Ramsar listed Tubbataha as one of the Wetlands of International Importance.[4] In 2008, the reef was nominated at the New 7 Wonders of Nature.[5]

The national park and the rest of the Philippine archipelago is part of the Coral Triangle, recognized as a center of marine biodiversity containing 75% of the described coral species and 40% of the world’s reef fish.[6] The area is under a grave threat due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices.[7] Research of scientists visiting the reefs since the 1980s revealed that the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park contains no less than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whalespecies, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles.

Because of its isolated location, Tubbataha can only be visited on a liveaboard boat. Divers can experience the reefs’ dramatic underwater terrain, awe-inspiring biodiversity and encounter large marine animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays.

Tubbataha is a combination of two Samal words which are “tubba” and “taha” which means, “a long reef exposed at low tide”.

Source: Youtube by DazzlingPhilippines.

As a visiting diver, you will play an important role in Tubbataha’s future, as your conservation fees provide the funds needed to protect the park from illegal exploitation.

(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim) March 20, 2013.

According to a report from Andrea Germanos, Staff Writer of Common Dreams, the United States has agreed to pay the $1.9 million in compensation for the damage to the reefs caused by U.S. Navy minesweeper.  And then, as early as the first quarter of 2015, local news in the Philippines carried a banner story about the Philippines receiving the amount for the rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reefs. 

According to Germanos, the USS Guardian rammed into the reefs and got stranded there for the next two months and had to be cut into pieces to be extricated.  This happened in January 2013.

A UNESCO  World Heritage site, the park website describes it as being at the heart of the global center of marine biodiversity.


Hereunder is a video about Going to Tubbataha Reefs, uploaded on youtube by Chris Hewett.


According to the website of Tubbataha Reefs, there is one Manta Rays that is a resident of Tubbataha reefs.  Here’s the article:

Reef Manta Rays

Philippines’ first record of Manta alfredi

In 2012, using data collected by research volunteer consultant Dr Terry Aquino, marine scientist Dr Will White confirmed that the Manta Rays in Tubbataha are Manta alfredi, a reef based species, rather than Manta birostris, a pelagic species roaming the open seas.

This is exciting since there was previously no record of Manta alfredi in the Philippines.

The Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) is found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. However, actual populations seem to be sparsely distributed.

Manta alfredi is considered “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List Status and an average of 30% decline in its population is suspected. They have a low reproductive rate with females bearing a single pup only once in two to three years.

Mantas are majestic creatures, loved by scuba divers. They are highly sensitive to marine conditions and are therefore an important indicator of the health of the ocean ecosystems.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is located in the middle of the Sulu Sea, in the township of Cagayancillo, a part of the Province of Palawan.

The website further stated that “the park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reef, lying at the heart of the Coral Triangle – the global center of marine biodiversity.  Scientists have been visiting these reefs since the 1980s, and their research has shown that Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world), 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins & whales, 100 species of birds, and also nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles.”

For additional information, please check this link:


How To Get There?

How to get here? You must go to Manila to book a flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Once you’ve arrived there, dive operators will gladly guide you to the pier where the boat going to the reef is waiting. It’s a 10-hour ride to the park and usually, the boat drivers will suggest that you’ll leave at around after dinner so that you arrive there by early morning the next day. It may seem that the travel takes a lot of time before you reach the reefs but I tell you, it’s worth it.

If you’re a diver and you haven’t been to the mystical Tubbataha Reefs then you’re missing out a big part of your diving life. It’s the best place to be.


Since the Manta Alfredi is sensitive to marine conditions, it is, therefore, good to know, that for as long as these Manta Rays are present in Tubbataha, we can conclude that the reefs’ ecosystems are healthy.

The Management of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park had been actively engaged in various activities that allowed scuba divers and tourists to explore the reefs but on top of their agenda was the protection and conservation of Tubbataha.

For more topics about the Tubbataha Reefs, please visit this link: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/653


Map showing the Tubbataha Reefs.  Located in the middle of Sulu Sea between Palawan and Panay.


Earthniversity is thanking its various sources of information and videos used in this post.  Thank you very much.

Revisiting the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

On September 25, 2014, the United Nations  celebrate the World Maritime Day. It is a celebration that every country with territorial waters being on the limelight this 2014 should try to re-visit. One of the global instruments that governs the sea and the sea lanes is the Law of the Sea Treaty signed by majority member-states of the United Nations.

According to the Wikipedia and I quote, “The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. The Convention, concluded in 1982, replaced four 1958 treaties. UNCLOS came into force in 1994, a year after Guyana became the 60th nation to sign the treaty.[1] As of August 2013, 165 countries and the European Union have joined in the Convention. However, it is uncertain as to what extent the Convention codifies customary international law.”

Furthermore, the Wikipedia stated that: “While the Secretary General of the United Nations receives instruments of ratification and accession and the UN provides support for meetings of states party to the Convention, the UN has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention. There is, however, a role played by organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Whaling Commission, and the International Seabed Authority (ISB). (The ISB was established by the UN Convention).”

On December 10, 1982, 157 member nations of the UN signed this international agreement which is popularly known as the Law of the Sea Treaty. This Law of the Sea Convention defines the “rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations)

The Wikipedia further stated the following information:

1. The issue of varying claims of territorial waters was raised in the UN in 1967 by Arvid Pardo, of Malta, and in 1973 the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was convened in New York. In an attempt to reduce the possibility of groups of nation-states dominating the negotiations, the conference used a consensus process rather than majority vote. With more than 160 nations participating, the conference lasted until 1982. The resulting convention came into force on 16 November 1994, one year after the sixtieth state, Guyana, ratified the treaty.

2. The convention introduced a number of provisions. The most significant issues covered were setting limits, navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed mining, the exploitation regime, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

3. The convention set the limit of various areas, measured from a carefully defined baseline. (Normally, a sea baseline follows the low-water line, but when the coastline is deeply indented, has fringing islands or is highly unstable, straight baselines may be used.) The areas are as follows:

3.1. Internal waters.  Covers all water and waterways on the landward side of the baseline. The coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource. Foreign vessels have no right of passage within internal waters.

3.2. Territorial waters.  Out to 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres; 14 miles) from the baseline, the coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource. Vessels were given the right of innocent passage through any territorial waters, with strategic straits allowing the passage of military craft as transit passage, in that naval vessels are allowed to maintain postures that would be illegal in territorial waters. “Innocent passage” is defined by the convention as passing through waters in an expeditious and continuous manner, which is not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or the security” of the coastal state. Fishing, polluting, weapons practice, and spying are not “innocent”, and submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag. Nations can also temporarily suspend innocent passage in specific areas of their territorial seas, if doing so is essential for the protection of its security.

3.3. Archipelagic waters.  The convention set the definition of Archipelagic States in Part IV, which also defines how the state can draw its territorial borders. A baseline is drawn between the outermost points of the outermost islands, subject to these points being sufficiently close to one another. All waters inside this baseline are designated Archipelagic Waters. The state has full sovereignty over these waters (like internal waters), but foreign vessels have right of innocent passage through archipelagic waters (like territorial waters).

3.4. Contiguous zone.  Beyond the 12-nautical-mile (22 km) limit, there is a further 12 nautical miles (22 km) from the territorial sea baseline limit, the contiguous zone, in which a state can continue to enforce laws in four specific areas: customs, taxation, immigration and pollution, if the infringement started within the state’s territory or territorial waters, or if this infringement is about to occur within the state’s territory or territorial waters.[6] This makes the contiguous zone a hot pursuit area.

3.5. Exclusive economic zones (EEZs).  These extend from the edge of the territorial sea out to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres; 230 miles) from the baseline. Within this area, the coastal nation has sole exploitation rights over all natural resources. In casual use, the term may include the territorial sea and even the continental shelf. The EEZs were introduced to halt the increasingly heated clashes over fishing rights, although oil was also becoming important. The success of an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in 1947 was soon repeated elsewhere in the world, and by 1970 it was technically feasible to operate in waters 4000 metres deep. Foreign nations have the freedom of navigation and overflight, subject to the regulation of the coastal states. Foreign states may also lay submarine pipes and cables.

3.6. Continental shelf.  The continental shelf is defined as the natural prolongation of the land territory to the continental margin’s outer edge, or 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastal state’s baseline, whichever is greater. A state’s continental shelf may exceed 200 nautical miles (370 km) until the natural prolongation ends. However, it may never exceed 350 nautical miles (650 kilometres; 400 miles) from the baseline; or it may never exceed 100 nautical miles (190 kilometres; 120 miles) beyond the 2,500 meter isobath (the line connecting the depth of 2,500 meters). Coastal states have the right to harvest mineral and non-living material in the subsoil of its continental shelf, to the exclusion of others. Coastal states also have exclusive control over living resources “attached” to the continental shelf, but not to creatures living in the water column beyond the exclusive economic zone.

4. Aside from its provisions defining ocean boundaries, the convention establishes general obligations for safeguarding the marine environment and protecting freedom of scientific research on the high seas, and also creates an innovative legal regime for controlling mineral resource exploitation in deep seabed areas beyond national jurisdiction, through an International Seabed Authority and the Common heritage of mankind principle.[7]

Landlocked states are given a right of access to and from the sea, without taxation of traffic through transit states.[8

This writer is a native of the Philippine Islands and had been knowledgeable about the on-going conflict between China and the Philippines as both countries claim certain islets, shoal, reefs and other areas located in the West Philippines Sea. Other claimants of certain piece or pieces of islets, shoals, reefs and other areas there include Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, among others.

It is my prayer that these countries can resolve this conflict in a peaceful means by resorting to this international agreement which, I think, all of them were signatories.

Erratum: World Maritime Day is September 25, 2014 not August 25, 2014 as previously written.  Thank you.

Estuaries: Breathing Life That Reverberates The Future, Lecture Series #5

DSCF2230DSCF2208DSCF2210DSCF2212DSCF2192Hello everybody.  Today, our discussion will focus on the topic of Estuary.  The Philippine Archipelago is composed of 7,641 (NAMRIA) islands. Originally, there were 7,107 islands in the Philippines but in 2016, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority reported that there were 534 new islands discovered mostly found in Mindanao. Most islands in the country have cities or towns that are located near an Estuary.  It is therefore of utmost importance that people in the community and most especially the LGU or Local Government Unit must strengthen their approaches to conserve and protect these Estuaries.

Join me, today, as I travel the road less traveled.  Why? Because not everybody is willing to talk about it.  Estuaries can be a boring topic.  So, let’s just think of it as the most beautiful place on earth where our future depends on.   It may sound corny but let me begin.

What is an Estuary?

  1.   It is the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream.  (www.epa.gov/…/estuaries)
  2.  It is usually found where rivers meet the sea. (National Oceania and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce)
  3. Freshwater Estuary is similar to brackish water estuary.
  4. Estuaries are a delicate ecosystem.  It can be adversely affected by pollution, weather, human activities, and encroachment into the habitat of several species of plants and animals.
  5. It is a semi-enclosed portion of the ocean that is somewhat isolated by land and in which freshwater and saltwater mix. (core.ecu.edu/geology/woods/estuariesl.htm)

The etymology of the word Estuary. The word estuary originated from Latin words aestus meaning tide and aestuarium meaning tidal part of the shore.  In the 16th century, it became estuary. How do Estuaries differ from other Oceanic environments?   (core.ecu.edu/geology/woods/estuariesl.htm – East Carolina University)

  1. The enormous daily and seasonal variability in salinity and temperature.
  2. Depth – Estuaries are shallow compared to an ocean.
  3. Salinity – varies with tides and season.  In the Philippines,  flooding during typhoons and rainy season can influence the salinity of Estuaries because of an increased river run-off from the uplands.
  4. Temperature is influenced by the: a) depth of the estuaries, for example – shallow estuaries may manifest variable temperature;  b) Tidal currents;  c) different seasons for example during winter, ice may form in the water.  In most of Asia and the Philippines where seasons are mostly wet and dry, rainy season and the dry season can influence the temperature of the estuaries that will also affect the inhabitants in it.

Classification of Estuaries     According to the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden Website, the following is the classification of  Estuaries.

  1. Coastal-plain estuaries are basically drowned river valleys where the present sedimentation rate is not in pace with the post-glacial inundation.  The bathymetry is still similar to the ancient river valley and sandbars and banks are still developing.  The relative age is then quite low. Source: images.search.yahoo.com   or http://www.slideshare.net
  2. Fjords – formed from ice age valley glaciers that broadened and deepened the valley floor.  At the mouth large amount of sediments (terminal moraines) were deposited creating a very shallow sill into the fjord when the glaciers retreated.  Some sills are not deeper than a couple of meters whereas the depth within the fjords usually ranges up to a couple of hundred meters.  Since the sediment flux is usually very low, the bathymetry very deep, the fjords are generally assumed to have a very low relative age.  Fjords are described as a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway and Iceland, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley. Source: images.search.yahoo.com  or es.slideshare.net
  3. Bar-built estuaries – are strictly speaking also drowned river valleys but in this case, the sedimentation rate is in pace with the inundation, creating a more mature estuarine type.  Across the mouth of the estuary is a bar where waves break and that is formed by deposited sediments.  The estuary is in steady-state in the sense that even if occasional storm events break the bar a similar one is quickly created after the event.  This type of estuary is associated with tropical climate and rivers with high sediment loads. (google search – the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden) Source: images.search.yahoo.com or http://www.slideshare.net
  4. Tectonic Estuary – the tectonic shifting together and drifting apart of the Earth’s crust, creates tectonic estuaries.  An example is California’s San Francisco Bay.  The San Francisco Bay lies at the junction of the San Andreas fault and the Hayward fault.  The complex tectonic activity in the area has created earthquakes for thousands of years.  The San Andreas fault is on the coastal side of the bay, where it meets the Pacific Ocean at a strait known as the Golden Gate.  The Hayward fault lies on the East Bay, near where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers enter the estuary.  The interaction of the San Andreas and Hayward faults contributes to the down warping, the process of an area of the Earth sinking.  (http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/estuary/?ar_a=1) Source: images.search.yahoo.com or http://www.slideshare.net

Estuaries Circulation

According to Wikipedia, Estuarine water circulation is controlled by the inflow of rivers, the tides, rainfall and evaporation, the wind, and other oceanic events such as upwelling, and eddy and storms.  Water circulation patterns are influenced by vertical mixing and stratification and can affect residence time and exposure time.

Residence Time water is a key variable in determining the health of an estuary, particularly from human-induced stresses.  Rapid flushing ensures that there is insufficient time for sediment accumulation or dissolved oxygen depletion in the estuary, thus a well-flushed estuary is intrinsically more robust than a poorly flushed estuary.

Exposure Time is the amount of time a water particle spends in the estuary until it never returns.  The exposure time can be much larger than the residence time if the water particles are leaving with the ebb tides and returning with the rising tide. (enwikipedia.org/wiki/Estuarine_water_circulation)

At this time, I hope this part of the Lecture has given you more background information about estuaries.  The more we know about it, the more we can think of approaches to protect and conserve our estuaries.  Different countries have different experiences and challenges on how they can protect and conserve their estuaries.  I hope this part of the Lecture will help you and your community.   To continue, let us talk about the importance of estuaries.

Importance of Estuaries

  1. Source of food
  2. Recreation
  3. Jobs
  4. Coastal Protection
  5. Navigable harbors or waterways for the transfer of food, raw materials, manufactured goods, recycled products, movement of people, and tourism.
  6. Commercial fishing, among others. (NOAA and core.ecu.edu/geology/woods/estuariesl.htm)
  7. Habitat or a natural home of various species of endemic and endangered species of plants, animals, and microorganisms.
  8. The breeding ground of various species.

If in your specific community there emerge another reason why Estuaries are Important, please feel free to add it.  If you can write me a note the better.  Thank you.

Challenges to Estuaries

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, these challenges are the following.  These challenges are the product of research, a study by experts, scientists and employees of the U.S. governmental agencies. (water.epa.gov/type/oceb/nep/challenges.cfm)

  • Alteration of natural hydrologic flows. People alter the environment through activities like development (Philippine experience – reclamation projects), construction of dams, flood control structures, and diversions of water, we change the volume and rate that water runs off the landscape, into the ground, and into streams.  Increased runoff can result in erosion and sedimentation.  Changes in freshwater inflows to estuaries can adversely affect shellfish survival, and fish reproduction and distribution.
  • Aquatic Nuisance Species.  ANS can disturb the food webs in the estuary and they can also cause a decline in various species of plants and animals.
  • Climate Change.  Many coastal wetlands and other estuarine habitats are threatened by inundation and erosion as the rate of sea-level rise accelerates.  Climate change will also increase stresses to habitat and fish and wildlife populations as temperatures rise.  Water quality problems are likely to worsen in estuarine waters if more extreme precipitation events create increased polluted runoff.
  • Declines in fish and wildlife populations. The many stresses on estuaries have corresponding impacts on fish and wildlife.  As their habitats disappear, the food they depend upon decreases and water quality degrades.  Invasive species provide added pressures, replacing many of our native plants and animals.
  • Habitat loss and degradation. The health of marine and estuarine systems and the human economies that depend on them rely on high-quality habitats that provide essential food, cover, migratory corridors, and breeding/nursery areas for coastal and marine wildlife.  For humans, healthy coastal habitats attract the tourism revenues and seafood industries that are vital to many local economies.  These habitats also function to make coastal areas more resilient to storms and sea level rise.  As coastal population increased, coastal habitats have been converted due to development, highway construction, diking, dredging, filling, bulkheading, and other activities that degrade coastal ecosystems.
  • Nutrient Loads.  Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are necessary for the growth of plants and animals and support a healthy aquatic ecosystem. In excess, however, nutrients can contribute to fish disease, red or brown tide, algae blooms, and low dissolved oxygen. Sources of nutrients include point and non-point sources such as sewage treatment plant discharges, stormwater runoff, faulty or leaking septic systems, sediment in urban runoff, animal wastes, atmospheric deposition originating from power plants or vehicles, and groundwater discharges. When excess nutrients lead to low dissolved oxygen levels, marine animals with little mobility can die; others must leave the hypoxic zones for more oxygenated waters.
  • Pathogens.  These are disease-causing microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can create health risks for people enjoying recreation in and on the water.  Pathogens can be introduced into estuaries from inadequately treated sewage, runoff from urban areas and animal operations, medical waste, boat, and marina waste, combined sewer overflows, and waste from pets and wildlife. They pose a health threat to swimmers, divers, and seafood consumers.
  • Stormwater.  Its runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events moves across the landscape without percolating into the ground.  As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops), it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediments or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is discharged untreated.
  • Toxics.  This includes metals, such as mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides enter waterways through storm drains, industrial discharges, runoff from lawns, streets, and farmlands, discharges from sewage treatment plants, and atmospheric deposition.  If consumed by humans, an organism that is exposed to these toxins can pose a risk to human health.  Wildlife and aquatic plants and animals can also be harmed by consuming contaminated fish and water.

At this time, we were discussing what the EPA had been doing.  The ideas that we got from other countries can be replicated in our Local Government Units or LGUs or in our respective communities.  For sure, our national laws are in place but its implementation as far as, developing countries are concerned may need a little “teeth”.   Perhaps, it is nice to know what other countries are doing so we can learn from their Best Practice.  How did they do that? This is a question that is relevant when we are referring to new knowledge and technology, and knowing this can be a great help to our local situations.  Now, let us continue with the discussion which will focus on approaches to protect and conserve our local estuaries.

The Philippines have several cities and towns that are located in the coastal areas and most probably near the estuaries.  The City of Manila has several estuaries that dump to Manila Bay.  These estuaries have been polluted for several decades that fish, plants and other animals can hardly survive the murky and dirty waters of these estuaries.   Many years ago, the cleaning up of Pasig River have been on-going and already changed the looks of the river – no more garbage floating on the river.  Well, occasionally a few can be seen floating.  This is thrown by hard-headed riverside dwellers and factories along the river.  Example of cities with estuaries are the following:

  1. Puerto Princesa Underground River Estuaries, Palawan, Philippines – Eco-tourism, National Heritage Site,  U.N. Heritage Site, currently one of the world’s  7 Wonders of Nature, Home to 20 Million-year-old Serenia (sea cow) fossil (La Venta Esplorazioni Geografiche, Italy)
  2. Manila and Pasig River, Philippines – shipping, commerce, etc.
  3. Cebu River Estuaries, fishing, commerce
  4. Ilog River Estuary, Negros Occidental, Philippines – fishing, river cruise or tourism.
  5. Malihaw River at Victorias City, Philippines – shipping, Fishing, Nipa Growing.
  6. Himamaylan River, Negros Occidental, Philippines – fishing, oyster culture
  7. New York and Hudson River Estuary – Hudson River estuary stretch 153 meters inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is home to 200 species of fish, nursery ground of Sturgeon, Striped Bass and American Shad.  It supports other wildlife such as birds. (To read more about its various programs and projects, please check the link found in the succeeding paragraph.)
  8. Caete Estuary, Brazil
  9. Mondego Estuary of Portugal, located in South Eastern Atlantic Coast of Europe.  It serves the shipping, fishing shipyard, small industries, salt production, and tourism activities.
  10. City of Nantes, France, where River Loire begins to meet the Atlantic Ocean. (To read more about its tourism promotion and beautification program, please check the link found in the succeeding paragraph)
  11. Shanghai, China – is located in the River Yangtze Estuary.  (www.google.com/search?q=images+of+cities+located+near+estuaries)

(Citation:  Thank you to denr10org – the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, through Mon Paje for sharing this video on youtube.  The voting has already been done and PPUR has already been declared as one of the 7 Wonders of Nature.  The video was placed here to support the discussion about PPUR as one of the most unique underground Estuaries in the world.)


  • Estuaries are assets of a country, city or town where it is located.  It is an asset because it could be navigable and therefore used in commerce and trade and to a certain extent, global tourism. 
  • As habitat of various species of plants and animals, Estuaries provide a source of food while at the same time serve as a nursery ground for endemic and endangered species of plants and animals.
  • Estuaries can serve the sports, recreation and tourism purposes of an LGU where it is located.
  • Estuaries provide job and job opportunities.
  • Estuaries can serve as coastal protection.
  • Estuaries can do other things, I may not be able to list down here.

Now, therefore, ways and means should be formulated to conserve, protect and beautify these Estuaries not only for sustainability and other purposes previously discussed but for aesthetic purposes as well.  

Best Practice:

1.  The City of New York and the Hudson River Estuary



2.  Nantes City and River Loire, France



On Relevance and Sustainability 

As what the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future stated, sustainable development is the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”   (Adams, W. M. Green Development, 3rd Edition, New York, p.5)

Estuaries are relevant to the life and existence of human beings for reasons previously mentioned. For various species of plants and animals Estuaries is an important habitat that needed conservation and protection too.

For programs and projects to be sustainable, there must be an improvement on the level or status of the following indicators formulated by the UN, CSD, this is the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.  These are:

  • Poverty
  • Governance
  • Health
  • Education
  • Demographics
  • Natural hazards
  • Atmosphere
  • Land
  • Oceans, seas, and coasts
  • Freshwater
  • Biodiversity
  • Economic development
  • Global economic partnership
  • Consumption and production patterns

Just to mention a few, Poverty.  When the poverty level is reduced, Estuaries can be protected from overexploitation and pollution, among others.  Another is the government.  When government provides efficient and effective infrastructure support, implementation of laws, and continuous research and development on how to conserve and protect the Estuaries, the higher are the chances that programs and projects for the conservation and protection of Estuaries can succeed.   So,  it is in designing sustainable development of Estuaries that the LGU or the community enhance the relevance and put more meaning to the conservation and protection of Estuaries.

Look for this link for more readings:

Click to access guidelines.pdf

Suggested Activities for Towns and Cities

  • Estuary Conservation and Protection Program need a boost among Local Government Units in the third world or even in developing countries.  Two of the best sources of “tried and tested” programs and projects are the Nantes City in France and New York City in the United States.  Their Best Practices can be a source of many ideas that can be replicated in our towns, cities, and communities where Estuaries are an important source of food, tourism, jobs, livelihood, recreation, and conservation and protection of endemic and endangered species of plants and animals.  Check the links I provided here so you can check what activities you can replicate in your LGU or Community.
  • In the case of the Municipality of Cuyo, in the Province of Palawan, for example, the town can prevent flooding in the Town Center by constructing a Floodwater Catchment that will collect floodwater to be emptied to the sea or the Water Treatment Facility. Or, they can construct a Drainage System in the areas of future development. Or, they can construct a Drainage System in the existing roadways.  A formulation of the Master Drainage Plan would also be a great initiative.  The Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of a Drainage Master Plan can be conducted by the Municipality.  A guide on how to conduct a Strategic Planning Workshop is found in this Blog and the title is Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of the Local Heritage Plan or look for the asterisk ** at the bottom.
  • Conduct a Strategic Planning Workshop on the Conservation and Protection of Estuary in your LGU.  Through this StratPlan you will know the real situations in your LGU as far as this Estuary is concerned.  You can raise the following questions:

1)  Who Are We?

2)  Where Are We Now?

3)  Where Are We Going?

4)  How Are We Going To Get There?

These four (4) questions can provide so much information to enable you to arrive at a list of Programs and Projects and an Action Plan that will be formulated by the stakeholders themselves.   People who are directly benefited and affected by this Estuary are the right people to be involved with other members of the community in attendance.

  • Conduct a workshop on Solid Waste Management and Disposal with focus on the 4 Rs-reduce, reuse, recycle and rot or composting.
  • Conduct a River Clean Up Project
  • Conduct a River Life Project
  • Encourage your LGU to establish the Landfill Site, Sewage Treatment Facility, Material Recovery Facility, and Composting Facility to minimize the landing of polluted water and garbage to the ocean and the waterways like rivers, creeks, and canals.
  • Organize a volunteer such as Green Army for the conservation and protection of the Environment
  • Organize a Blue Army for the conservation and protection of the waterways like rivers, coastal areas, inland waters, and estuaries, among others.
  • Organize a Brown Army for the implementation of anti-littering and illegal disposal of garbage at any places in your community more specifically the waterways like rivers, creeks, canals, the estuaries, among others.
  • Organize a 4-Rs Brigade to encourage people in the community to practice the 4 Rs – reuse, reduce, recycle and rot or composting and by encouraging the people in the community to avail the services of the MRF or Material Recovery Facility rather than “throwing” these recoverable materials to the rivers and other waterways.
  • Encourage your LGU to hire an expert on Estuarine Science.

Every Local Government Unit and the Local Community, most especially the Stakeholders who shall enjoy and benefit from these doable programs and projects to protect and conserve our Estuaries in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world, have a bigger responsibility to make these programs and projects into reality.  

Designing sustainable development programs and projects and implementing them will not only transform and maintain these estuaries into a healthy waterway and habitat of endemic and endangered species of plants and animals but will continue to provide food, jobs, livelihood, and tourism among others.  That initiative will also create something meaningful not only for the present generation but also for the generations to follow.


Photos by:  Henry Libo-on, Puerto Princesa Underground River Estuary, Palawan, Philippines.  The New 7 Wonders of Nature.  The photo was taken about 12 hours after the rain.  There was rain that midnight, so, the water was not crystal clear or turquoise blue.

Updated November 2018….(HCL)

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Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of the Local Heritage Plan (Lecture Series 1-A).

The 4 Pillars of Clean Environment based on Australian Experience are Clean Land, Clean Air, Clean Water, and National Heritage.  Today’s activity here on Earthniversity will focus on the topic: Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of the Local Heritage Plan.


In planning the implementation of a specific program or project in the Local Government Unit, I found it best to use the strategic planning workshop method that will involve all stakeholders so that the result of the planning process will be reflective of what the community wants or needs. The participants will be asked to answer the 4 questions which are:  Who Are We?, Where Are We Now?, Where Are We Going? and How Are We Going To Get There?


There will be workshops to answer the 4 questions.  Participants are going to summarize their answers by writing the top 3 answers they selected.  Group A who will tackle the first question shall report their output to the whole participants where an interaction will follow. Improvement or revision of their top 3 choices may be done with the approval of the majority.  Group B, C, and D follow.

The participants may use the data that are available in the Local Government Unit to help them in answering the 4 questions.  Documents like the following might be of  help:

1) Comprehensive Land Use Plan, that also contains a write-up on SWOT Analysis of the LGU,  2)  Environment Code  3)  Annual Report of LGU Departments who have participation in Local Heritage Planning Workshop  4) Socio-Economic Profile  5)  Local Budget  6) Existing Laws and Ordinances not included in the Environment Code, and others.

The participants will be given meta cards.  Each card has a specific color.  For example, white for who are we? yellow for where are we now? green for where are we going?. and red for how to get there? Each participant must write on the meta card his answer to every question and paste it on the board provided for.  There will be many ideas posted on each question.

The participants will discuss the merit of each response and place it in the level it is thought to be appropriate.  The top level is the best option.  The participants will further make their final choice for each question so that they can reach a final answer of, say, top 3. The final top 3 answers can be converted or formulated as Target, Strategies, Programs or Projects.  So, at the end of the day, a list of Programs and Projects will be identified with Targets and Strategies placed appropriately where they should be.

Also, an Action Plan can be drafted by the participants in the session.  Samples of Action Plan is available online and in the library.  Here I will provide a sample of its contents.  The first column is Activity, 2nd is Time Frame, 3rd is Cost Estimate, 4th is Persons Responsible, 5th is Expected Output, 6th is Implementation Status and 7th is Evaluation.  The Facilitators will guide the participation in filling up this Action Plan.  The participants can revise it depending to suit their unique needs. The Final Report of this workshop can be written by the Facilitators or Training Director and will be submitted to the LGU official for approval, funding, and implementation.  Plan for Evaluation and Sustainability Measures will be incorporated in that final report.

What is National Heritage?

According to Wikipedia, national heritage refers to “anything of national significance which is handed down and preserved through generations, especially architecture, landscapes, documents, and other artifacts; also a body set up to carry out this preservation.” In this workshop, the term National in National Heritage will be replaced by the word Local, to denote the Local Government Unit, a city, town or province that will be the focus of this strategic planning workshop.

(Comment, September 25, 2014…A few years ago, the United Nations also encourages all member states and governments to implement the protection and conservation of their Underwater Cultural Heritage Sites or in my own point of view – the Underwater Heritage Sites like reefs, sunken ships and many others that can be included in the sphere of the definition of the word Heritage…)

Stages of Strategic Planning Workshop

1.  Who Are We? The things that form part of our national heritage can help us answer this question too. Who are the people that should be involved, who will be the Doers, who will implement and who will be affected? (DIY-VN). Are we capable of doing a sustainable activity to make this Heritage Plan a successful one? Once the answer is written down, the discussion will follow and the final selection of the top 3 responses will be recorded.  Most probably, the answer to the question will be:  we have heritage sites and places but there is no plan for their conservation and protection. Then, the list of these heritage sites and places will be done. A few participants may answer this way: we as a people, value our rich culture, traditions, history, and historical sites. It is for the Facilitator to guide the participants’ thinking to arrive at appropriate responses.

2. Where Are We Now? This refers to an analysis of the internal and external situations of the LGU or the Community. It also implies the review of the vision, mission, and other initiatives that were undertaken by the LGU or Community as far as Heritage is concerned. The SWOT analysis is an ideal tool to use for a very comprehensive understanding of the present situation as well as a good aid in planning for the future. (DIY-VN). This question shall focus on the analysis of the existing situation of the LGU and the community and the responses should focus along this line. In my experience, I found the session on Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) of an LGU to be “bloody” thing, so to speak. But I also enjoyed it the most because of its output, the participants will have a clearer view of their LGU.

3. Where Are We Going? What does the LGU or Community want the future to look like? What do they want to see happening in say, 3 to 5 years? (DIY-VN). This question implies the direction upon which the LGU and the Community may follow to reach the goals which are the identification, conservation, and protection of the Local Heritage Sites and Places. For example, the LGU and Community wish to conserve a historical place owned by the intestate estate of somebody, so the participants’ response here could be making a list of these historical places as an initial step that will progress to initiate talks with the heirs, donation of the heritage site/place to the government, and the ultimate preparation work to make this heritage site presentable to the public.

4. How Are We Going To Get There? Creating a roadmap for achieving the strategic objectives will involve the management committee in Setting objectives; Resourcing the organization; Agreeing or approving operational/work plans, and Ensuring appropriate systems and structures are in place. (DIY-VN) This last question will also focus on the LGU and the Community’s means or strategies of achieving the goals which are to identify, conserve and protect the Local Heritage Sites and Places. These Strategies will include specific Programs and Projects that will, later on, be Funded by LGU.

Presentation of Workshop Output, Critiquing, Rewriting and Making of Final Report – The Heritage Plan of LGU or Community. The Plan shall include other things like Action Plan, Infrastructure Components, if necessary; Investment Plan if needed. The Task of the TWG, the Technical Working Group or the Ad Hoc Committee is to organize the Final Report. This final report which is now the Heritage Plan of the LGU or Community will be subjected to a series of community consultations with all the stakeholders participating.

The final document will be presented to the Local Development Council (LDC) for their review and approval in a form of LDC Resolution. This will be forwarded to the Local Chief Executive for his approval. The LCE will submit it to the Municipal of City Council for their review and approval. A copy of this Plan will be furnished the Council Member Chair of the Committee on Environment. The final approval which includes the budget details in the Plan shall be done by the Local Council. So, the Municipal or City Council’s approval will be in the form of a Resolution or an Ordinance. Then this will be submitted to the Local Chief Executive for his signature. Now, you have the approved LGU Heritage Plan for a specific period. The implementing arm of this Plan is the Office of the Environment. This is in the Philippines Setting.

In closing, I am very sure I missed some points but you can just add the items you think are important before you conduct this Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of the Local Heritage Plan.

References: 1. DIY Committee Guide by Volunteer Now, website

2. Department of Environment Australia, website.

3.  Link:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/aileron/201/10/25/five-steps-to-a-strategic-plan/

Photos:  The RUINS at Talisay City and the Pink House or the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum at Silay City.

Both are Heritage Sites in Negros Occidental, the Philippines.  Photo by Henry C. Libo-on

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  • Reviewed on May 19, 2020.