THIS IS A STORY OF TWO towns in western Pangasinan that rejected multibillion-peso cement plant complexes proposed by international companies in their midst years ago.
Bolinao and Agno made it to national and international headlines when their residents bitterly fought protracted wars to stop the projects. Local and foreign environmentalists and marine scientists supported their causes.
It was Bolinao – a town gifted with pristine beaches, caves, waterfalls, verdant hills, islands, rivers and 8,000 hectares of coral reefs in the Lingayen Gulf – which first caught the eyes of foreign investors.
In 1992, the Tuntex Group of Companies of Taiwan and its Filipino and Japanese partners proposed a P13-billion package of a cement factory, coal-fired power plant, quarry area, wharf and a 10-km conveyor belt.
Most of the people refused to be swayed by the promises of employment and development, and campaigned against the project. On Aug. 6, 1996, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected the plant’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC).
A year after the euphoria in Bolinao had died down, it was Agno’s turn to wage a war on yet another foreign investor, Goldsun Cement Corp. of Taiwan, and its partners, Nihon Cement Corp. of Japan and GML Corp. of the Philippines.
Like Bolinao, Agno boasts of picturesque beaches fronting the South China Sea, rolling green hills, and a generally unspoiled ecology. Both towns also have natural seaports that would have made it easier to transport cement to other countries.
Underneath their grounds are rich deposits of limestone, silica and other materials needed for producing cement. But both towns have something more important in common – people who will stand firmly when their towns’ ecological purity is at stake.
The “war” in Agno ended on March 29, 2003 when Goldsun’s extended ECC lapsed after the proponents failed to introduce any form of development in the project site.
Ten years after Bolinao’s fight, tourists have started returning.
Margaret Celeste, one of those who led the campaign against the cement plant as head of the Movement of Bolinao Concerned Citizens Inc., said eco-tourism was the “better alternative” to the environmentally destructive plant.
“We have been proven right,” she said. “There were no regrets about our decision to reject the plant. The town has gone a long way and the people never looked back.”
Both residents and tourists saw the area’s potentials as an eco-tourism destination and started to invest in resorts and hotels.
Celeste said the town had always attracted foreigners and domestic tourists. Her guests at the family-owned Celeste Resort were usually Americans and Europeans who would stay for weeks, even months, to enjoy the town’s natural beauty, she said.
It is a different story altogether after the cement plant project was junked in 1995, when resorts mushroomed on the beaches overlooking the Lingayen Gulf and the South China Sea.
The town used to offer only “low-medium end” resorts, but high-end establishments soon opened, mostly in the western side.
“Visitors have choices now,” said Ronaldi Torres, vice president of the Bolinao Hotel, Resorts and Restaurants Owners Association.
Agno is still reeling from the protracted war.
Like in Bolinao, the opposition to the Goldsun-proposed cement plant was led by nongovernment organizations, such as the Agno Concerned Citizens for Ecologically Secured and Sustained Development (Access).
Lydia Colobong, Access vice president, said the NGOs were trying their best to introduce developments in the town but were met with indifference by local officials, most of whom supported the establishment of the cement plant.
Colobong said their proposed activities focused mainly on agriculture and fishery.
Access has teamed up with Volens, a Belgian NGO, to promote organic farming and undertake reforestation projects in the area. Volens has put up a nursery of trees in Boneg village, one of the proposed quarry sites.
Colobong noted advances in agriculture, such as in the production of yellow corn and organic rice, while fish catch was still abundant.
The Diocese of Alaminos’ Social Action Center is helping the residents by putting up payaw (artificial reefs) in the sea to increase catch. Fishermen are also planning to establish fish sanctuaries.
First posted 11:25pm (Mla time) Oct 25, 2005
By Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes
Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on Page A18 of the October 26, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
move over boracay.
Bolinao is becoming the "It" destination. :D
Congratulations to the People
Bolinao, Pangasinan, Philippines
The Bolinao Marine Laboratory sends news that after a 27 month campaign the Bolinao-Anda reef system has been saved from the development of a Taiwainese cement complex. Last August 6, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Victor O. Ramos issued a denial "with finality" to the proponents request for an environment clearance certificate. (Refer to the speech by Dr. Edgardo Gomez for the history of the Bolinao-Anda reef system.)
Official Report on the 8th International Coral Reef Symposium from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
The 8th International Coral Reef Symposium Common officially inaugurated by Dr. Perez Balladares, President of the Republic of Panama, took place at the ATLAPA Convention Center, Panama City, Republic of Panama from June 24-29, 1996. The Symposium was jointly hosted by the University of Panama and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; 1391 professionals from 58 countries registered, almost twice as many as for any previous Coral Reef Symposium.
A gratifying aspect of the Symposium was the impressive array of financial supporters which allowed a remarkably diverse and high quality program to be developed and a very large number of young professional participants from developing countries to attend. The Organizing Committee is extremely grateful to the Inter American Development Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Smithsonian Institution for major contributions toward the support of participants, the production of the scientific proceedings, and the design and construction of the Exhibit; Carribbean Connections. The Organizing Committee was able to fully support 132 young scientitsts to attend the Symposium. These young professionals play key roles in coral reef research, management, and conservation in developing countries where most of the world's reefs are found. They would not have been able to attend without major contributions from the Inter American Development Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO), and the European Union.
For the technical program fifteen major themes were defined, covering all aspects of coral reef research, conservation and management. One of the world's leading experts in each field was selected to deliver a plenary address. Every expert invited by the Organizing Committee attended the Symposium, clear indication of the global importance of the meeting as a vehicle for communicating coral reef issues. Three plenary talks were given each day, bringing a synthesis of major coral reef themes to all participants and complementing the eleven concurrent daily sessions of state-of-the-art specialized talks, workshops and symposia. Midway through the week, a day was set aside for workshops that allowed specialists to meet in a less structured setting to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing reef science.
Another unique feature of the Symposium was a special series of public programs in spanish for the interested public. The program consisted of three lectures explaining the biological nature and importance of coral reefs, the problems facing their conservation and management, and the use of SCUBA in research and recreation associated with coral reefs. In addition, there was one public workshop covering the role of coastal peoples in coral reef conservation and management. The public program was extremely well attended, often with standing room only and was very well covered by the press and television.
The scientific contributions of the Symposium are impressive. 844 abstracts of scientific talks were published in two languages and distributed to the participants. Field guides were published for the seven major field trips. 300 manuscripts were submitted at the meeting for publication in the Proceeding of the Symposium and the 15 plenary talks will also form a single special volume of the journal "Coral Reefs".
A major new travelling exhibit on coral reefs, developed by the Smithsonian Institution, was inaugurated at the Symposium. The exhibit attracted thousands of schoolchildren who filled the exhibition hall throughout the week of the Symposium. With extensive text and excellent photographs, the exhibit displays the nature, scale, beauty, and economic importance of reefs, the problems of their survival, and the array of possible beneficial activities and products that different cultures may derive from these ecosystems. The exhibit will now travel to the countries of Central and northern South America, and the Caribbean. The cost of the conception, design and construction of the exhibit was $300,000, provided by generous awards from the Smithsonian Institution 150th Anniversary Committee; the Inter American Development Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the US State Department.
In the week preceding and following the Symposium, field trips were organized to the Galapagos, Ecuador; the Belize Barrier Reef, Belize; several sites on the Pacific and Caribbean coast of Panama; San Andres and Providencia Islands, Colombia; and Curacao, Dutch Antilles. Field guides were produced for each trip which will be published as part of the Proceedings of the 8th ICRS. In addition, a series of geological and biological on-day trips to key sites in Panama were organized during the Symposium. All fieldtrips were fully subscribed.
Two new international coral reef initiatives have developed in the last two years, both of which had important contributions to the Symposium; 1)International Year of the Reef (IYOR) is attempting to mobilize the action of scientists worldwide in their fight to preserve reefs. IYOR was launched at the Symposium and has generated an extensive network of cooperating scientists dedicated to providing information and action to protect reefs. 2)International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) has been raising diplomatic and political awareness globally through the coordination of national governments, international organizations, NGO's and scientists. ICRI held a major workshop at the Symposium synthesizing the results of several regional ICRI workshop reports, covering the worlds reefs. Using these regional reports as a base ICRI seeks to align coral reef research results, national government policy priorities, and international and NGO funding.
In a brief report it is impossible to do justice to the full range of discoveries and advances that were reported and discussed at the meeting. Some of the major issues concerning coral reefs that were defined and discussed at the 8th International Coral Reef Symposium were:
1. Management of Marine Protected Areas in the Tropics
2. The interface between fisheries and the health of reefs.
3. The symbiosis between algae and corals and its relation to coral bleaching.
4. The use of coral skeletons to assess past climates and to predict consequences of global climatic change.
5. The launching of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR), a global movement to energize scientists to take practical action in reef conservation and management.
6. The consolidation of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), an international government sponsored attempt to align government policy priorities of reef-possessing nations, international donors and NGOs, and the scientific communities in a global effort to preserve and protect coral reefs. ICRI's secretariat will now be officially transferred to Australia from the United States and the emphasis will be on the organization of major regional units.
Article from Reefnet.org (Reefnet is an Internet information service designed to increase the understanding of coral reef ecosytems world wide. Its purpose is to facilitate discourse on coral reefs and make quality reporting available on current scientific articles, research findings, international conservation strategies, and management techniques. By establishing a forum for scientists, conservation organizations and marine artists, Reefnet's goal is to encourage a greater appreciation through knowledge of the coral reef ecosystem.)