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The Philippines consists of 7107 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, only 2000 of which are inhabited. Luzon and Mindanao are by far the largest, and comprise roughly 66% of the country's area. Only about 1000 islands are larger than one sq km (0.4 sq mi) and 2500 aren't even named. The Philippines' nearest neighbours are Taiwan (north), Eastern Malaysia and Brunei (southwest), and Indonesia (south).

So far, seagrass monitoring has been established in only one location - Puerto Galera Biosphere Reserve (13°1'N, 120°58'E), located at the extreme northern part of the island of Mindoro, Philippines. In January 2002, an Executive Order from the mayor's office was promulgated by Mayor Aristeo Atienza: (E. O. 02-01) “BantayIsay” (English, “Seagrass-Watch”) and was officially launched in 4 October 2002 by the mayor and the Secretary-General of the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines. The local government was so pleased by the children's initiative that early 2004 it passed another Municipal Ordinance (M.O. 04-01) as part of the growing effort to support the initiative to conserve the seagrasses in the area. For the Philippines and Southeast Asia, this is the first ever legislation that focuses attention directly and explicitly on seagrass habitats.


Puerto Galera

Principal watchers: Rochelle Balitaan, Dr. Miguel Fortes (Marine Science Institute), Mr. Luisito Peliòo & Puerto Galera Academy students
Location: Maniknik (Puerto Galera), easily accessible by boat
Site code:
Issues: not heavily impacted by local developments
Comments: Puerto Galera is a beach resort town and one of the Philippines’ top travel destinations. It covers an area of 23,247 hectares offering its visitors numerous natural attractions such as pristine white beaches, crystal clear water, natural seawalls, rich marine life and other exhilarating dive sites. It also has virgin jungles with meandering rivers that can be exciting mountain treks. It is located at the north shore of Mindoro Island, 130 kilometers south of Manila, and 14 nautical miles from Batangas City. To the north of Puerto Galera is Verde Island. It is boarded on the south by the Baco and Malasimbo Mountains; on the northeast by the town of San Teodoro; and on the northwest by the province of Mindoro Occidental.

The Puerto Galera terrain is rugged with dense jungle. It has an irregular coastline dotted by many coves of white sand beaches with crystal clear water. It has a natural harbor providing sea vessels with safe anchorage. March to May is hot and dry. June to October is rainy. November to February is cool and dry.

“BantayIsay” will eventually be incorporated as one of the regular activities of UNESCO Club in Puerto Galera Academy.


  • Sites are similar in species composition and abundance. Enhalus acoroides, Cymodocea rotundata, Halodule uninervis, Halophila ovalis and Thalassia hemprichii dominated the approximately 500 m seagrass bed in the area.
  • At least three species of sea urchins were found in the meadow.
  • Each site has only been sampled once.
  • From anecdotal reports, seagrass meadows in the Puerto Galera region are in a fair condition, and no major losses are apparent.
  • Insufficient data to describe long-term trends.






Palawan is an island province of the Philippines located 600 km southwest of Manila and is flanked by the South China Sea on the west and the Sulu Sea on the east. It is the largest province of the Philippines. It has a land area of 1.5 million hectares and a coastline of 1,959 km. Palawan consists of the long and narrow Palawan Island, plus over 1,700 other smaller islands surrounding the main island.

Palawan is considered to be the Philippines' "last frontier". The province boasts of many splendid beaches and has two World Heritage Sites: Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. In 1990, UNESCO declared the entire Palawan area as a Biosphere Reserve.

At least 10 species of seagrass are known from Palawan. Enhalus acroides is to be the most common seagrass occurring in Palawan.
Since 1997, staff from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development have conducted coastal resource assessments to generate information on the general condition of Palawan's Coastal resources. Seagrasses were surveys at a number of sites using a transect/quadrat technique.  They reported that nearly half of Palawan’s seagrass resources or in a “poor” condition.

Data generated from surveys of coral reefs and seagrasses across Palawan is input to coastal resource management planning, Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) zoning and environmental monitoring.

Under ECAN zoning, identify potential core zones which may include habitat of rare and endangered marine species, fish sanctuaries (declaring certain areas as fish sanctuaries to enhance sustainable fisheries).

The effects of eutrophication and siltation are insignificant due to the lack of urbanization and scarce coastal population especially in Balabac waters. There are several factors that have contributed to this fortunate condition. First, as Palawan houses 232 endemic species, the province was proclaimed as Fish and Wildlife Sanctuary in 1967.

Because of this proclamation, coastal development activities that lead to excessive earthworks are almost absent in Palawan. Secondly, major crops in Palawan such as corn, cashew and coconut have limited use of fertilizers and agrochemicals. These crops are not a major source of agrochemical pollutants in the marine ecosystem.

Furthermore, these types of crops cultivation cause very little soil erosion and alteration of physical terrestrial environment. Lastly, commercial logging has ceased in Palawan with the cancellation of timber license agreements in 1993. Water pollution may still occur in other parts of Palawan. Small operations of illegal logging activities occur in the mountain range especially in Quezon and Rizal have contributed to siltation along the coastal areas. In addition, nickel mining and processing plant in Rio Tuba and quarry activities in Rizal contribute to coastal pollution and sedimentation.

Dugong were commonly found in Palawan waters before they were excessively hunted. The sightings of dugong herds in Palawan are considered rare nowadays. In 1991, dugong conservation took a leap with the issuance of Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines (DENR) Administrative Order (AO) No. 55, which made the dugong the first marine mammal protected in Philippine waters. As stipulated in this AO, any person who hunts, kills, wounds, takes away, possesses, transports and/or disposes of a dugong, dead or alive, its meat or any of its by-products shall be punished by imprisonment from 6 months to 4 years or fined Php 500 to 5,000 or both (equivalent to RM 35 to 350).

Community-based management plays an important role for a province like Palawan that is isolated from other parts of the country. In 1993, the Provincial government created community police forces such as “bantay Palawan” and “bantay dagat” to protect Palawan’s marine resources.

Philippines’ legislation supports empowerment of the community through its 1990 Republic Act 7160. The Act devolves authority so that “territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self reliant communities and make them more effective development partners”.

The extent of the 15 km of Palawan’s coastal water as municipal waters by the 1990 Local Government Code has given a major mandate in the implementation of the community based management. Before success in marine resources management can be achieved, the locals especially in the rural areas need to be educated. The UNESCO Commission on Science and Technology and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources plan to initiate such an education campaign in Palawan.


In the Philippines, it is not only dugong, turtle and fish which eat seagrass. The rhizome of Enhalus acoroides is served as delicacy in some coastal villages. The seeds are eaten by children and recently the starch from seeds has been extracted for baking cookies (hoped to be a viable commercial venture). Another species, Halophila ovalis, is pickled and used as salad vegetable. Importantly, dried seagrass leaves are found to cure diarrhea. Seagrass also has other uses apart from a food source. The handicraft and furniture industries have utilized seagrass blades as a component and accent parts of selected furniture, handicrafts and other saleable household items.




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