Community, marine rights, and sea tenure: a political ecology of marine conservation in two Bohol villages in central Philippines

This study focuses on communities in conservation in central Philippines, with reference to marine protected areas. It analyzes communities as intersections of multiple actors with stratified interests and power, involving complex processes of place-making, ecological knowledge, tenure, governance, markets, and negotiation with domestic and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

As rights to places are fundamentally at issue with protected areas, matters of tenure are central for the study. And because marine protected areas (MPAs) are community-based, questions of local empowerment have equal centrality. The ownership of rights to marine resources by village members is a necessary if not sufficient condition for the political empowerment of communities in conservation. The issue of property rights in the Philippines is irrevocably linked to issues of equity, as social actors confront prevailing unequal relations of power. The development of community commitment to the reconfigured arrangements of marine protected area establishment depends on substantial economic gains for marginalized villagers, an equitable distribution of those gain, the ecologically sound management of resources over which rights are negotiated and gains generated, and a socially meaningful realignment of relations of power among nested sources of authority.

My analysis points to the advantages of a reinforced community property regime that would call for measures by the national government to enhance villagers’ tenure over their settlements and community waters (katubigang barangay). Such a regime is no panacea for the manifold social and environmental challenges faced by communities, but it would enable them to engage more confidently and constructively with state, NGO and other interests in conservation, and to address the real or perceived threats of dislocation by externally proposed schemes. Two villages with MPAs in the province of Bohol in central Philippines serve as case study sites to explore intertwined social, economic and political variables that influence issues of conservation, equity and empowerment.

Guieb, E.R. (2009). Community, marine rights, and sea tenure : a political cology of marine conservation in two Bohol villages in central Philippines. Doctoral dissertation, McGill University, Canada.