CULION: Waste Management and Mangrove Conservation

Mangrove conservation entails staunch effort and devised processes in actively pursuing to safeguard these forests. In the same regard, with this also comes multiple factors that play a part in its destruction in the first place. In the ISO Project, “Promoting Participatory Island Development Strategy for Culion, Palawan,” waste disposal was found to have been one of the top three environmental issues plaguing the municipality of Culion (ISO 2018). By extension, this also threatens the sustainability of its mangrove forests.

The Mangroves of Culion serve important roles, both within the natural ecosystem and for the people with whom they coexist.
Photo by the Institute of Social Order.

Its local populace, which almost fully depends on their natural resources, has fishing as its main source of livelihood. Serving as a refuge for fish, in addition to filtering dirt and breaking strong winds and waves, mangroves are thus regarded as one of the most valuable coastal and marine resources in the area. Furthermore, Poblete et al. (2018) finds that six of the barangays in the Culion study – Libis, Osmeña, Baldat, Malaking Patag, Binudac, and Galoc – all earn a meager monthly average of Php 6,500 and below.

The Interweave Explained

Mangrove obstruction by way of improper waste disposal thus poses a problem as it hampers both the conservation of mangroves and the livelihood of fisherfolk. ISO program implementers Aaron Bustamante and Jianne Batuigas explain this more in detail. Aaron asserts that “coastal dwellers produce solid and human waste that contaminate mangrove areas. Some contiguous mangroves don’t have significant garbage content; only those close to coastal dwellers.” This is reaffirmed by Jianne, to which she adds, “plastic bottles or sachets, diapers, cans, and sometimes fishing nets get trapped in mangrove forests, on forest floors or in mangrove roots. This affects how mangroves deliver services to the marine ecosystem as a home for thousands of marine species. Trashes can cause stress in habitats, and it can even cause death to the marine communities.”

In the same vein, ISO researchers Castro et al. (2020) contend in their publication Coastal Conservation: A Youth’s Guide to Select Philippine Environmental Laws, that “wastes can also prevent the growth of mangrove seedlings and many compete with the space that aquatic animals need to live.” With this, one may wonder how exactly waste mismanagement is prompted in Culion. Jianne reports that in this municipality alone, over 19,040 households produce domestic wastes; hospitals, clinics, and health facilities generate hazardous wastes; farms generate agricultural wastes; physical businesses generate commercial wastes; and most civilians heedlessly throw trash in the streets. With this, the ISO Project has arrived at the discovery that the majority of the barangays dispose of their trash by burning them; only half take part in garbage collection; and only a third segregate (Poblete et al. 2018). Evidently so, there was a lack of awareness and appreciation for their resources. 

However, five out of six barangays did acknowledge that a waste disposal management system was needed. As such, the ISO conducted training to empower local communities – the very stakeholders with the highest interest in mangrove management. In the spirit of participatory governance, community-based natural resources management (CB-NRM) strategies were sought to assess their resources, form a Local Research Team (LRT), and impart knowledge on how to manage and conserve mangroves more responsibly and effectively. 

Improper waste management is among the top issues faced by the mangroves of Culion, according to its residents. Thus, efforts are being made to improve waste disposal and management in the island municipality.
Photo by ISO

Results of the Efforts

Since the start of the project’s development stage at 2016, it has since garnered favorable results: the reforestation of 62 hectares of mangrove forests, the establishment of over 350 hectares of Marine Protected Areas, and the fortifications of the Culion Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC), Bantay-Dagat, and the Culion Livelihood Ecosystem (CLE).

Photo by ISO

After interviewing respondents from barangays Libis and Osmeña, a significant increase in awareness among the local communities has also been observed. Two fishermen from Culion, Antonio and Albert, described how they saw better waste management has affected their fishing – fishes would no longer die or leave if people threw their trash and managed their waste properly. Antonio mentioned having seen plastic, poison, and chemicals discarded onto the sea. This was then corroborated by Juanito, another interviewee who recounted catching trash rather than fish sometimes. When asked about which people they thought could help with the situation, Geronimo then expressed his thoughts determinedly:

Para po sa akin, lahat ay makakatulong sa pagbabago ng waste management, sapagkat lahat ay may kanya-kanyang tungkulin na dapat gampanan (For me, everyone involved can help in their own ways with regards to waste management, as everyone has their own roles and responsibilities).

Other interviewees relayed the same opinion, naming actual stakeholder such as: the barangays, the LGU, organizations like ISO, and the residents themselves. However, much still needs to be done. Better regulation of existing laws, policies and management systems; the establishment of sanitary landfills, and Materials Recovery Facilities; training on solid waste management; conducting clean up drives; and institutionalized programs with ample budget set aside are but some calls to action in the protection of mangroves.

With raising more awareness, and lobbying for more effective policies, these all could be achieved in the foreseeable future. The active participation of the involved stakeholders, and the continuous support of the collective populace are small steps with rippling effects that may eventually push towards the growth of the collective, as well as the mangroves they tend to, and greater environmental sustainability.


Castro, K.M.I., S.M.M. Poblete, K.J.C. Montalla, and P.G. Tiamson. 2020. Coastal Conservation: A Youth’s Guide to Select Philippine Environmental Laws. Quezon City, Philippines: ISO.

Institute of Social Order. 2018. “Promoting Participatory Island Development Strategy For Culion, Palawan: Final Performance Report.” Quezon City, Philippines: Institute of Social Order.

Poblete, S.M.M., L.A. Makalintal, K.M.I. Castro, and L.L. Lim. 2018. “Participatory Coastal Resources and Ecological Assessment (PCREA) for the Promoting Participatory Island Development Strategy for Culion, Palawan Project.” Philippines: Local Government of Culion, USAID Philippine-American Fund, Institute of Social Order, and Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan.

Spread awareness on Twitter by tweeting #AlagaanAngBakawan and #PakingganAngCulion!

Campaign by Alconis, Karl Eli R.; Axibal, Joane Denise Alliah M.; Eleazar, Pamela Christine L.; Llames, Gel Christian P.; Lira, Leandro Emanuele P.; Maligalig, Paulo Miguel R.; Yuzon, Ma. Katrina Ysabel T.

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