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Guimaras Towards Achieving Its Sustainable Development Targets

Guimaras Province, Philippines — Guimaras, an island province of the Philippines, located in the western Visayas, is well-known for its mangoes - its signature product; its pristine beaches and coves; and more recently, as the site of the worst oil spill in the history of the Philippines. On 11 August 2006, two million liters of bunker fuel were spilled into the Guimaras coast, causing an environmental and economic disaster that seriously affected more than half of its population living along its 238-km coastline that depended on the coastal and marine resources for their livelihood.. The results of the rapid damage assessment showed the magnitude of impacts on the ecosystems and population which were manifested in the loss of livelihood, health problems and degradation of the important coastal habitats including mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass beds.

The oil spill incident provided a window of opportunity for Guimaras to consider adopting an integrated management approach due to the problems encountered during the oil spill response process, which included lack of interagency coordination. Integrated coastal management (ICM) holds great promise particularly in promoting policy and functional integration and in helping the local government develop policies, strategies and action plans to address issues that affect its sustainable coastal development, including natural and man-made hazards prevention and management.On 21 September 2007, the Provincial Government of Guimaras expressed its intent to implement an ICM program through a letter sent to PEMSEA. A site evaluation mission was conducted on 28-30 April 2008 to determine Guimaras' suitability for ICM implementation. The evaluation mission was able to identify the various challenges to sustainable development in Guimaras. The mission likewise assessed how the ongoing initiatives of the local government as well as other stakeholders that focused on the sustainable management of the Province's marine and coastal resources can be integrated and more importantly, confirmed Guimaras' commitment to ICM and to functioning as a PEMSEA ICM parallel site.Guimaras is undertaking the necessary preparatory activities towards the development and implementation of a full-blown ICM program. The Governor of Guimaras, Hon. Felipe Hilan A. Nava, is spearheading the process. Governor Nava issued Administrative Order No. 4 (2008) establishing the Guimaras ICM Project Coordinating Committee (PCC) and the Project Management Office along with the necessary budgetary allocations for their initial operation. A Memorandum of Understanding is anticipated to be jointly signed by the Provincial Government, PEMSEA and the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in July 2008 to officially recognize Guimaras as a PEMSEA ICM parallel site - a very unique site as it showcases the integrated management of an island ecosystem.