Trying to balance conservation and development in San Antonio, Zambales, Philippines

img_1034Melchor Ventura is the Planning & Development Officer for San Antonio, a Municipality in Zambales province, Philippines. He is also involved in the eGov4MD project; an international collaborative, orchestrated by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), bringing together various Filipino organizations, municipalities, and foreign nonprofits (e.g., CESO). The project will help Filipino municipalities develop and leverage their Information Technology (IT) staff and capacities. Improved IT in the form of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is of particular interest to Melchor.

It’s through the eGov4MD project that I’ve gotten to know Melchor. I’m here in San Antonio as a Volunteer Advisor (VA) to the eGov4MD project, with the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO). The focus of this post though is on land-use management.

The place

San Antonio borders on the South China Sea. The area is largely rural, with 2/3 of the area mountainous. Small-scale agriculture is common in the lowlands. The first settlements were Spanish (early 1800s). The population is 33,000, with concentration in a central residential/commercial area, a few kilometres from the coast.

Although largely undeveloped economically, the coast is dotted with resorts, new and/or under development. The attractions include warm, clean water, virgin beaches, nearby islands, coral and a variety of marine life, waterfalls, and hiking. On the other side, poverty and health issues (e.g., malaria) are prevalent. Unexploded bombs remain from the Americans use (up to 1992) of part of the Municipality for weapons testing. And for the cautious ones (like me), carrying a stick helps to mitigate the curiosity of the many dogs that roam freely in the area!

Protecting the coastal area

In his Municipal role, Melchor works with various local groups in planning how the coastal area should be used. It’s not easy, in part because there is no existing inventory of the marine environment. In many ways, San Antonio is seeking to balance environmental and conservation interests with land development and economic interests. These interests include:

  • Fishing for a living, legally and illegally
  • Resort development
  • Waste management
  • Promoting eco-tourism
  • Protecting marine life
  • Fish farming (in cages/pens)

In the following 5-minute video, Melchor talks about some of these items, and more…

Finding ways to collaborate and create meaningful solutions to complex land management issues is of particular interest to me. I’ve worked for many years (consulting to government) in the land management field, and I live on Canada’s west coast, where a similar situation exists (to San Antonio)  i.e., the competing interests of conservationists and developers.

More about Melchor

Melchor started work with the Municipality, as a revenue collections clerk, in the late 1980s. He joined the Planning Office a few years later, and has been the Municipal Planning & Development Officer for the last 10 years. He has 4 children.  And…. his wife is an excellent cook (I’ve been treated to her meals on more than one occasion).

Question for the reader

What do you think of San Antonio’s conservation strategies (referenced in the video) e.g., to have fish farmers also act as guardians, protecting nearby wild fish stocks from illegal fishing?

If you found this post interesting, I would appreciate if you left a comment or subscribed to my blog. It is from your feedback that I gain a better understanding of the type of content, posted on this blog, that interests you.  Respectfully, Ben.

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