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San Fernando, La Union

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Read and listen to the stories of our partner community from San Fernando, La Union. Witness their experiences with the environment and their unique struggle towards environmental justice, particularly through their interaction with mangroves.

Discover what we’ve learned from our case study with the community about mangroves and mangrove conservation.


The Problem

In 2015, members from the Poro Sea Lovers’ Association (PSLA) noted the following environmental concerns in San Fernando City that need immediate action (ISO 2015): 1) the need for protection of endangered species, the pawikan specifically, 2) declining fish catch and fish stocks, 3) the need for mechanisms and legal instruments that safeguard fisheries resources, 4) the need for eco-tourism. Nevertheless, efforts are being taken to address these environmental issues, particularly the protection of their marine resources from illegal and unsustainable fishing practices and activities.

Coupling species endangerment as the most pressing environmental issue in San Fernando are the lack of awareness for their natural resources, mangroves in particular (ISO 2014), and consequently, the lack of community engagement with the mangrove conservation efforts and projects spearheaded by the San Fernando City Local Government and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (hereafter CENRO). While the community experiences these problems, it has not absented itself from participating in ecological initiatives. For one, taking care of its marine biodiversity is the top priority—the forefront of its environmental efforts—as San Fernando is a coastal community surrounded by a marine environment.

Photography by ISO

The Cause

San Fernando is rich in marine biodiversity and natural resources but the community members have observed the rapid decrease and poor conditions of these resources, with the city facing environmental threats mainly from rapid urbanization (ISO 2015; DENR 2019). While efforts are being made by CENRO to balance urban development with environmental care (for instance, conducting coastal clean ups and regular mangrove tree planting and monitoring activities), other environmental threats continue to affect the marine environment and the different species of the place. These include, but are not limited to, plastic waste pollution and oil spillages.

Infographic by students of the Ateneo de Manila University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

A summary of the causes of the current environmental threats in San Fernando


Mangroves important to coastal communities?

The mangroves in San Fernando City are essential because the city’s primary source of income comes from their marine environment and, accordingly, their fishing-related activities (ISO 2014). Mangrove ecosystems are essential to the the marine environment as these trees serve as a habitat and nesting ground for many species—one of which is the endangered pawikan—and a place of refuge for different wildlife species (CGSF 2013).

Moreover, mangroves shield coastal ecosystems and communities from storm surges and floods (WWF n.d.). While mangroves support coastal communities, they are well known to help other marine ecosystems by stabilizing ecosystem processes and regulating carbon (The Nature Conservancy 2020).

That said, the community must strengthen and prioritize its mangrove conservation efforts. Protecting mangroves intersects with protecting the marine environment as a whole—including the waters, the seabed and soils, all marine wildlife, the locals’ food source, and its coastal habitats.

Purpose with San Fernando

Establishing Ecological Interconnections

The case study assumes one primary purpose: re-establishing the importance of mangroves in San Fernando by tackling the ecological interconnections involving marine and mangrove ecosystems. This cause is important because while the community has existing marine protection efforts, they continue to face marine-related issues like species endangerment and marine ecosystem loss (particularly, mangrove loss and mismanagement). Waste from highly industrialized human activities within their city (i.e., seaports, construction, and ship transfers) is also harmful to marine and coastal ecosystems.1 While efforts by the San Fernando City Local Government help monitor and prevent such environmental threats, the government with the help of the community of San Fernando City must make themselves more aware of their ecological situation, underpinned by the relationship between conserving mangrove ecosystems and protecting marine ecosystems.

Establishing ecological interconnections will show the community how a healthy marine environment is beneficial to them in the long run as it provides resources, capital, livelihood opportunities, and coastal protection. This can be done by substantiating the overarching role of mangroves in preserving marine ecosystems, as stated above. Demonstrating the importance of mangroves can be achieved through the following:


Assessing the awareness of the community towards mangroves.


Finding out their perceptions towards mangroves.


Making an effort to convince the community to strengthen their mangrove conservation practices through grassroots involvement.
Photography by ISO
Photography by ISO

As such, the case study is dedicated to answering the following questions, which frame the study’s research:

  1. Ano ang kaalaman ng komunidad tungkol sa bakawan?
  2. Ano ang mga kahalagahan ng bakawan sa tao?
  3. Ano ang mga kahalagahan ng bakawan sa komunidad?
  4. Ano ang mga kahalagahan ng bakawan sa kalikasan?
  5. Anong mga hayop at halaman ang nakikinabang sa bakawan?

Photography by Poro Marine Protected Area

All About San Fernando, La Union

Read all about San Fernando, La Union by clicking on the image above!

San Fernando Expressions I: As Reported by Community Members

Can you hear the mangroves, (San) Fernando?

Data & Report Shelf

San Fernando Expressions II: As Reported by Community Members

Grave or Grace: San Fernando’s Mangroves

Data & Report Shelf

San Fernando Expressions: III As Reported by Community Members

Understanding Ecological Interconnectedness

Data & Report Shelf

Stories of Interest

Learn more about the community members living in San Fernando and their inspiring stories about mangrove conservation!

Photography by Institute of Social Order, Poro Marine Protected Area, San Fernando City Local Government

Not so fast!

Take our short quiz to find out what you’ve learned from this page!


City Government of San Fernando – Environment and Natural Resources Office. 2013. Biodiversity and Habitat Assessment in the City of San Fernando, La Union. La Union, Philippines. 

Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 2019. Poro Marine Protected Area Assessment Report. San Fernando, La Union.

Institute of Social Order. 2014. PSLA Profile Report. Quezon City, Philippines.

Institute of Social Order. 2015. Participatory Coastal Resources and Ecological Assessment for the Facilitating Public-Private Partnership through Co-Management of a Marine Protected Area Project. Quezon City, Philippines.

Institute of Social Order. 2019. 2014-2019 Project Report: Facilitating Public Private Partnership Through Co-Management of A Marine Protected Area. Quezon City, Philippines.

Institute of Social Order. 2019. San Fernando Bay, La Union Profile Report. Quezon City, Philippines.

International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2006. “Conservation Benefits of Mangroves.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (


[1] ISO Workshop 2021: Coastal Resource Management and Advocacy Workshop and Introduction to ISO’s STAGE Program

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