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Press Release

May 28, 2015

JICA, Japanese, Filipino scientists' project backs conservation of ‘highly endangered' Boracay ecosystem

PhotoOne of the five CCTVs installed by JICA along the shores of Boracay to analyze shrinking of beach area and sand erosion.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and a group of Japanese and Filipino scientists warned of "imminent loss" if the current environment situation in Boracay Island prevails.

A study on Boracay conducted from 2010 to 2015 involving Japanese and Filipino scientists as part of JICA project called Coastal Ecosystem Conservation and Adaptive Management (CECAM) showed that Boracay's coral reef ecosystem has been seriously degraded by tourism-related activities.

Based on analysis of satellite images, coral cover in Boracay declined by about 70.5% for the past 23 years (1988-2011). The highest decrease in coral cover recorded over the 23-year period was between 2008 and 2011 as tourist arrivals rose by 38.4%.

Unmonitored snorkelling and diving activities in coral rich areas have contributed to damage sustained by corals, according to study.

"JICA shares the collective vision of stakeholders in Boracay to promote a more sustainable tourism development in the island. Through CECAM findings, we hope that LGUs and policy makers will be able to use scientific and technological knowledge from the project to address critical environment issues affecting the study's pilot sites," said JICA Senior Representative Takahiro Morita.

"Tourism is an important economic driver in the Philippines. By protecting marine resources, we are also helping sustain the tourism industry, and jobs creation in the country," added Morita.

The island is also experiencing beach erosion. Thus, as part of the CECAM initiative, JICA has installed five closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) along the beach for real-time monitoring of wave conditions and observation of algal blooms or green tide.

The CCTVs also helped CECAM scientists analyze shrinking of beach area and sand erosion that affect the island especially during dry seasons.

Boracay is a world-renowned tourist destination known for its 4-kilometer beach of powdery white sand. Uncontrolled commercial development of the 1,000 hectare island since the 1990s continues to threaten the island's environment.

CECAM scientist Dr. Miguel Fortes from the University of the Philippines (UP) also cautioned that water quality level at the eastern part of Boracay beach is alarming, making it unsafe for swimming and other human activities.

Direct discharge of untreated waste water near the shore brings about poor water quality level that consequently results in frequent algal blooms and coral reef deterioration.

"It's very crucial that the sustainability of Boracay's environment will not be exchanged for short-term economic gains. We hope to continue working with planners and policy makers in the island through knowledge and technology sharing that will help conserve the coastal environment. The use of geospatial technology and decision support systems needs to be operationally incorporated within the planning and decision making process," said Dr. Ariel Blanco, another CECAM scientist from UP.

The coral reef ecosystem is Boracay's most important resource. According to sediment analysis, Boracay's famous white sand is mostly from coral fragments and the seaweed Halimeda. Coral reefs also lessen the impact of strong waves to the beach hence protecting it from sand erosion.

Aside from Boracay, the CECAM project also covered other pilot sites that have their own ecosystem challenges such as Bolinao in Pangasinan, Puerto Galera in Mindoro Oriental, Taklong in Guimaras, Naawan in Misamis Oriental, Laguna Lake and Manila Bay in Metro Manila.

CECAM is part of the "Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development" (SATREPS), established jointly by JICA and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). Among others, it aims to address global issues through international research by Japanese researchers collaborating with their counterparts in developing countries.

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