By the early 1980s, years of destructive fishing practices along the coast off Dauin had left miles of dead coral reefs and destroyed fish habitats. Rated a fourth-class city by the Filipino government, Dauin’s residents were primarily poor fishermen relying on the ocean both for income and basic subsistence. However, the lack of good environmental protection regulations left many Dauin citizens without a livelihood.
In 1984, the provincial government of Oriental Negros united with the Silliman University Marine Laboratory to set up a marine protected area in Barangay Apo, a small island off the coast of Dauin, and to teach residents of this region sustainable fishing methods. The municipality of Dauin attempted to replicate Apo’s success in all eight of the city’s barangays (the smallest of Filippino administrative units), but the initiative was largely a failure as the efforts of local leadership lost steam and eventually bogged down.
Mayor Alalano resolved to revive the Coastal Resource Management Program (CRM) begun but never completed by his predecessors. His administration resurrected the initiative in 2000. By encouraging citizen participation and a sense of ownership of the program among the residents of Dauin, the mayor and other innovators hoped to avoid the declining interest that eventually undermined the CRM Program in the early 1980s.
Reformers encouraged local fisherman to form civil associations to manage different aspects of the CRM project. As citizens explored ways to reimagine Dauin as an eco-tourist destination for divers, enterprises dedicated to attracting visitors have multiplied. From only three resorts predating the CRM Program, Dauin now boasts 14. Funds from user fees for diving in the area have also doubled from 2002 to 2005. Where Dauin collected only 1.2 million Philippine pesos per year in users fees, revenues for the first half of 2005 alone exceeded 1 million. In addition, local investors have built nine marine sanctuaries, each of which generate revenues of 200,000 pesos per month.
By delegating construction and management to fishermen associations, reformers in Dauin have been able to employ and to retrain fishermen previously devastated by the declining health of its coastline. The city’s innovators found they can simultaneously protect the environment and provide a sustainable income for impoverished and marginalized residents.