Coastal Resource Management
The municipality of Looc, which means “cove” is located at the southern part of Tablas Island, the biggest island province of Romblon. It is a fourth class municipality of about 21,000 people distributed among 12 barangays. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the population reside along the coastline of the cove. The cove encloses 23 sq. kms. of municipal waters, which is the town’s major fishing ground providing livelihood to some 1,000 households out of the town’s 3,900 households. Years back, fish catch was abundant and several marine species were found in Looc Bay. However, during the early 1990’s, illegal and destructive methods of fishing became widespread and led to the depletion of the Looc Bay’s productivity at an alarming rate. The extent of the damage called the attention of the local leaders. As early as 1995, initial Coastal Resource Management (CRM) activities in Looc started. Major components of the CRM include community organizing, massive IEC, and rehabilitation of the marine resources, which includes mangrove reforestation and establishment of a fish sanctuary. There also exists a strong partnership among the LGU, local NGO, and people organizations. Fifty two active volunteer members comprise the Bantay Dagat. These volunteers are considered the unsung heroes and heroines of the success of the CRM program of Looc. They receive neither pay nor allowance, devoting one day a week serving as Bantay Dagat even during holidays like Christmas. They have effectively stopped destructive and illegal methods of fishing.
Meanwhile, displaced fisherfolks are given priority for alternative livelihood programs by the local government of Looc. The LGU has provided assistance and loans to its constituents for fish processing, poultry raising, purchase of rice thresher and blower, seaweed and vegetable production, and handicraft making. Care for the environment and lessons on marine resources conservation have also become part of the elementary school curriculum. Although the fish sanctuary is only a year old, there has been remarkable increase in fishcatch, as well as other aquatic resources such as shellfish. Recently, the LGU passed a resolution granting a monthly allowance of P300 for each BD and authorizing minimum fees from visitors going to the sanctuary. Due to their high level of awareness of environmental protection and conservation, the local folk themselves opposed the following: a) the plan to develop a golf course in one of the barangays; and b) an offer made by a foreign investor to build and repair boats in Looc.
This program is recognized as a Trailblazing Program, a finalist for the 2000 Galing Pook Awards.