Aquatic Development Frontier in the Philippines

November 21, 2008

Aquatic Development Frontier in the Philippines

The objective of this paper is to explore the prospect of the aquatic development in the Philippines and provide insight to the phenomenon (of aquatic development).  For the initial readings the class have been given two papers written by the professor himself:

  1. A Paradigm Shift in the Philippine Development: Marine and Aquatic Dimensions of Development for the Philippine Islands and their Ecological Implications
  2. A Socio-Economic Geography of the Laguna lake Resources (1961 – 1985) and its Implications to Aquatic Management and Development in the Philippine Islands.

The concluding parts of both readings can be summarized into a policy call to development to consider environment, culture and implications of new technology implementations by the oligarchs that leads to :

  1. Displacement and dislocation of fishing villages
  2. that results to Poverty

The second paper cites the benefit of billions of income utilizing the fishpen technology implementation at the Laguna Lake but on the other hand has left the fishing villages worse off.  This statement of facts have led to the author’s call to The first paper is a call to policy reforms such as “To overhaul the approach of the Fishpen Development Program from a highly technical perspective towards its outright socio-economic objectives.”

On the facts laid down by the authors of the two papers, my opinion is that it can be referred to the Pareto Optimality Critereon where according to the National Economic Development Authority’s book on project evaluation  “it is important to estimate economic benefits and costs in order to determine whether a project is likely to bring about a potential Pareto improvement in the allocation of resources. This leads to the importance of undertaking economic analysis of a project.” (NEDA 2007)

I do agree on the assumption of the said author that there are unlimited potential in the development of the aquatic resource where it is said that the territorial waters of the Philippines is larger than the land area.   On the other hand one should consider sustainability using Pareto’s Optimality Critereon where it recognizes that people will be worse off once any project is implemented.  The Zyderzee  land reclamation of the Netherlands for example is a perfect argument on policy implications that has led to displacements fisherfolks.  One side of the argument would simply ask “what will happen to the fishermen that will be displaced once land is reclaimed?”.   I’m not using the argument between fishermen and development paradigm of the Netherlands nor the contention of environmental advocates.  On the context of the Pareto optimal or potential Pareto improvement, any policy implementer should always consider the cost and benefit in all angles such as: socio-cultural, environmental/ecological and economics .   I think this should be the number one order of business of the policy implementor or evaluator… sustainability.

In the long run aquatic development projects if it is sustainable it has to be acceptable to all factors of society.

Who has the capacity?

One major factor that contributes to the complexity of sustainable development in the Philippines is merely the political patronage system that is patronized by the landed and moneyed class.  In the lawa or lakes of San Pablo City, I have witnessed how my former formator in the seminary Msg. Jerry Bitoon have fought to remove the structures beside the lake that has caused environmental degradation to its ecosystem.  Structures from houses, restaurants, pigpens to fishpens have been partially removed in the initial phase of the project backed up by the Laguna Lake Development Authority.  Unfortunately, when the fishpen owned by a certain powerful judge who belongs to an influential family it has all stopped.  It has even reached to a point where the priest/advocate, Msgr. Jerry, to call the Mayor of San Pablo, a guy with no balls.  The Sampaloc Lake incident makes The Laguna Lake case, not an isolated case of ecological degradation brought about by this political patronage system.

How can one move on without money, land and influence?

It is useless and pointless to go further into aquatic and agricultural research if the output of these endeavors will only be the moneyed, the landed and the influential class.  Take for example the case of the good professor of this subject who have lobbied a well researched paper on the development of a province strategically located at the side where tuna fishes passes through in the pacific area.  The controlling factor to implement such idea is a clan who holds the rein that stirs or steer the threshold of economic and political power there.  One day he just woke up his idea being in the national paper without his name and credence on it.

One has to have money and influence to implement change here in the Philippines.  Or… perhaps one has to be politically correct with people who has money, land and influence but this person or persons should have a good heart for the common good.

Peace and Order and the Geographical Divide

The whole archipelago is composed of 7k plus islands.  It means that groups of Filipinos are separated geographically more than seven thousand times.  The reality that bites more is that we have two political divide issues… the Communist insurgency and the separatist movement.   Going to the frontier of aquatic and agricultural sustainable development still becomes a dream at this point.

Any political leader in year 2010 has to consider that this is dragging development on the country side plus the fact on the previous section.

Research and Development on a Typhoon Environment

Fishpens fall and rice paddies become lakes.  Research and Development of infrastructure for agriculture and aquaculture should consider resilience of the structure from a typhoon.   The Philippines will always be hit by a typhoon because it is on a global space called a typhoon belt.  Consider that when a major storm ravages the Philippines, economic losses amount to millions.

Mindset of the People and the Church

The only societal structure that can influence the whole economic system is the Church. Unfortunately, the significant number of clergies in the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is just bent in rubbing elbows with the matrons of the rich corrupt government officials and tax evading businessmen in their own parishes.  So is with their leaders, the pot bellied bishops who are scratching their balls within the confines of the grandeur of their palaces.

The church still has the influence from the national level to the parochial level.  Priests should be educated not only in pastoral disciplines but also economic discipline. A parish priest can change the mindset of each person in a parish… and work for the common good.  Unfortunately, it is not his apostolate anymore.


I do believe in an Aquatic frontier of development because the division of the Philippines is more aquatic… Filipinos technically, physically and geographically speaking is divided by water… not by land boundaries and the seven thousand plus islands speak for this hard fact.  But… I believe that it should start with the leaders of each and every region in the Philippines.  There are divisions that need to be removed from among their political territories.  The moneyed and landed class should converge their resources as well as their efforts to come up with development projects for the common good and not for their common pockets.  If the great economic divide between the rich and the poor comes to a point where the rich does not have an itsy bitsy teeny weeny empathy for a homeless child… then the nation will only have two options:

  1. to re educate the rich
  2. to kill them

National Economic Development Authority 2007, Volume 1.  Reference Manual on Project Development and Evaluation.


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