Links of interest for
Southeast Asia

Philippines : Bohol


An archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. As of March 2010, these were divided into 17 regions, 80 provinces, 138 cities, 1,496 municipalities and 42,025 barangays. The capital city is Manila. With an estimated population of about 94 million people, the Philippines has the highest birth rate in Asia and forecasters say the population could double within three decades. Governments generally avoid taking strong measures to curb the birth rate for fear of antagonising the Catholic Church, which opposes artificial methods of contraception. Although it once boasted one of the region's best performing economies, the Philippines is saddled with a large national debt and tens of millions of people live in poverty. The economy is heavily dependent on the billions of dollars sent home each year by the huge Filipino overseas workforce.

Situated on the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity. Around 20 earthquakes are registered daily, though most are too weak to be felt. The last major earthquake was the 1990 Luzon earthquake. There are many active volcanoes and the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, mineral deposits are abundant. The country is estimated to have the second-largest gold deposits after South Africa and one of the largest copper deposits in the world. It is also rich in nickel, chromite, and zinc. Despite this, poor management, high population density, and environmental consciousness have resulted in these mineral resources remaining largely untapped. Geothermal energy, however, is another product of volcanic activity that the country has harnessed more successfully. The Philippines is the world's second-biggest geothermal producer behind the United States, with 18% of the country's electricity needs being met by geothermal power.

The Philippines - a Spanish colony for more than three centuries and named after a 16th century Spanish king - was taken over by the US in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against rule from Madrid. Spanish and US influences remain strong, especially in terms of language, religion and government. Self-rule in 1935 was followed by full independence in 1946 under a US-style constitution. President Ferdinand Marcos, a close ally of the US, imposed martial law in the early 1970s but was forced to step down in 1986 after mass demonstrations cost him the support of the armed forces. Although the country has remained a democracy it has enjoyed little stability. President Joseph Estrada was forced out of office in 2001 after months of protests at his corrupt rule, and there have been a number of coup attempts against his successor, Gloria Arroyo.

On the southern island of Mindanao, rebels have been fighting for a separate Islamic state within the mainly Catholic country. The decades-long conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives. Sporadic violence has continued despite a 2003 ceasefire and peace talks, which again resumed in December 2009. The radical Islamist Abu Sayyaf group on the island of Jolo, which is reputedly linked to Al-Qaeda, has a history of violence towards hostages, and the government has declared all-out war on it. Since 1969, the government has also faced a protracted guerrilla campaign across much of the country by the communist New People's Army (NPA). A serious effort at talks in February 2011 resulted in an agreement with the NPA to work towards a peace deal by 2012, although mutual distrust remains a problem.

With a total land area of 411,726 hectares, Bohol is the tenth largest Philippine island and lies in the Central Visayas region at the centre of the Philippine archipelago. This oval shaped island with an interior plateau dominated by hills will be the focus of our case study. These hills form near perfect cones in great numbers and are collectively referred to as the Chocolate Hills and considered one of Philippine's natural wonders. They are formed of limestone left over from coral reefs during the ice age when the island was submerged. They turn brown during the dry season, hence their name. Bohol also boasts over 1,400 caves, the reason for the province’s name, derived from the Visayan word buho, meaning hole. White sandy beaches dot the coast of the island but the most well known are in Panglao Island, located just southwest of the capital Tagbilaran City. There are four main rivers that run through Bohol with the Loboc playing host to cruises on board small bancas or floating restaurants. Numerous waterfalls are scattered across the island, including the beautiful Mag-Aso falls in Antequera. Mag-Aso means smoke in the native tongue. The water is cool and often creates a mist in humid mornings which can hide the falls.

The total population of Bohol is 1,139,130 (2000 census) with a growth rate of 2.95% between 1995 and 2000, the highest recorded for the province since 1903. This places Bohol as the second highest in population throughout the region. This figure is expected to double in about 23 years. Bohol is the farmland and fishpen of Central Visayas – supplying rice, coconut, root crops, fish and seafood to most of the region. It prides itself as the ‘Island of History and Natural Beauty’, earning the title of the country’s No. 1 Tourist Destination in 2004. The main strategy of the Provincial Government is to spearhead the growth and sustain the competitive edge of Bohol’s prime industries, adopting policies and actions that put value to the protection of biodiversity, natural ecosystems and the health and safety of island residents and tourists. A Bohol Environmental Summit in 1997 drew up the Bohol Environmental Code which integrated existing environmental laws into the local governance system and mandated the creation of the Bohol Environmental Management Office. In his first State of the Province Address in February 2011, the new Governor is poised to intensify the strategies of HEAT Bohol and LIFE HELPS through a spectrum of of activities matched with a participatory and shared style of leadership.

Renewable Energy & Eco Housing

Aside from wishing to become a strong eco-cultural tourism destination in the country, Boholanos also envision an aggressive agro-industrial economy that has the potential to sap all available energies the province may need. The National Grid Corporation along with Bohol Electric Cooperative 1 and 2, Bohol Light Company Incorporated and other energy authorities have assured that the present power capacity can sustain Bohol's development leap until 2015. Bohol now is largely supplied by the Leyte-Bohol Power Interconnection Project laid in 1999, which was designed to transmit 138 KV of geothermal power from Tongonan in Leyte to Bohol. At present, Bohol's peak power demand is pegged at 65 MW. Locally generated sources comprise a diesel power plant in Tagbilaran City (18 MW) and several hydroelectric plants including Hanopol (1.8 MW), Loboc (1.2 MW) and Sevilla (1.2 MW).

The maximum transmitted capacity is about 85 MW but with the future operation of Panglao airport and its complex, a projected surge in power demand could be expected. To this end, the Department of Energy and the National Grid Corporation has strengthened a power boost with the completion of the Bohol Backbone Transmission Project, which brings more power to the urban centers in Tagbilaran and Panglao. This project aims to accommodate load growth and address the low voltage problem, improve system reliability and operational flexibility and extend electricity service to areas which used to have no access to power supply. Phase two of the project also includes upgrading the submarine cables from Lapinig island in Carlos P. Garcia town in Bohol to Guadalupe in Leyte, which is aimed to boost more power. When completed, Bohol nets an estimated 276 KV from Leyte alone. Aside from the main bulk supply from Leyte, Bohol is also looking at its locally generated power and its capacity for using more renewable energy resources. It has been reported that Ayala Development Corporation has shown interest in developing an 8 MW hydro power plant in Danao-Inabanga town area, utilizing the Wahig River. A Korean firm Youil Renewable Energy Corporation is also looking at investing $40 million for a 10 MW solar power facility in Bohol but this was dependent on what final feed-in-tariff rates were approved by the Philippine government.

In 2010 the US-based Renewable Energy Development Corporation (REDCO) had expressed interest in building the first plastic-based solar panel technology in the country on Bohol. This technology magnifies the sun’s rays to heat boilers to produce steam that in turn fires up a set of turbines to generate electricity. The proposed 1MW solar thermal power plant would cost around $1 million and could be expanded to 5MW. REDCO was working with Bohol I Electric Cooperative whose power supply comes mostly from the hydro plants. The Cooperative believes solar energy to be the best alternative since diesel power plants are expensive and dry spells caused by the El Nino adversely affect the source of water for hydro plants causing frequent power outages. As the patented technology does not rely on photovoltaic solar cells, it should be able to produce cheaper power with each megawatt output needing only 2.5 hectares to fan out the plastic panels.

Waste Minimisation & Recycling

The Philippine Environmental Governance 2 Project (EcoGov 2) funded by the United States Agency for International Development assisted local government units in improving management of municipal solid wastes to reduce threats to human health and adverse impacts on the environment. For example, the Talibon municipality has implemented an efficient Integrated Solid Waste Management plan that includes segregated garbage collection, a vermi-composting facility for collected biodegradable waste and a new sanitary landfill. The municipalities of Jagna and Duero in Bohol have also been cited as sites of best practice and the capital Tagbilaran has made significant headway with its solid waste management strategy.

Water Management & Security

Bohol’s water supply for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses can be tapped from 2,224 springs, 59 rivers and 200 creeks. There are 11 major watersheds but still serious issues to address as outlined in this presentation including unregulated underground water extraction, salt water intrusion and E.coli contamination due to untreated sewage. Water supply is made available in Tagbilaran City and in the nearby municipalities on a 24-hour basis with the completion of the Tagbilaran Water Supply Project. Thirty-two deep wells with submersible pumps operate at a daily capacity of 19,000 cubic meters. The Central Visayas Water and Sanitation Project and the construction of Level III water systems have made water available in 16 other municipalities. Likewise, the development of Ujan Spring in Cortes with a daily capacity of 3,500 cubic meters and Loboc River are currently being pushed.

Extensive Agriculture & Organic Food Production

The history of the Bohol organic agriculture movement has been detailed by a local farmer in his blog. BISU Organic Agriculture Initiatives also maintain this Facebook page with updates on the first ever Bohol Organic Agriculture Summit held in January 2011 and the Bohol Organic Agriculture Code that was finally approved in March 2011 after months of deliberation and public consultation. This code provides a framework on how to go about organic farming based on four principles: health, ecology, fairness and care. It is also anchored on what the authors described as “Growing in Rhythm with an Ecologically vibrant Economy, Nourished by Life-centered, organically Integral Farmlands and Ecosystems” or the acronym GREENLIFE Progam. The Bohol Green Life Program was launched in September 2009 and is the provincial organic agriculture master plan that is hoped will serve as an alternative to the technocrat driven modern agriculture propagated by the Green Revolution in the 1960’s.

The Soil and Water Conservation Foundation has implemented a total of 82 projects since its beginning in 1989. It runs various eco tours and co-manages the Bohol Biodiversity Complex with facilities that include a training centre, lodging quarters, organic vegetable gardens, greenhouse, vermi-composting facility, farm animal sheds, reforestation area, Karst trail, gene bank and a dipterocarp mini laboratory. Just a few minutes away from the complex, the Balay Sa Humay facility highlights the rice traditions of the island. Here you can savour the many rice-based dishes and desserts of Bohol. The Bohol Bee Farm is also run organically and many of its products are served in its restaurants. The farm also offers accommodation and the opportunity to be involved with other activities like raffia weaving. The Jose L. Gonzaga Farmers Foundation in Danao is another organic farm operation that can provide overnight accommodation and where visitors can engage in various farming practices.

For almost half a millennium, the ubi (purple yam) has been considered sacred and is venerated by the Boholanos. This root crop is very aromatic and plainly boiled, mixed with other vegetables or dried and used as a flavoring for ice creams, candies and cakes. Respect for this plant is stronger than ever and organic ubi growing became the main thrust in promoting an annual ubi festival every January. It provides agri-entrepreneurs a venue for promoting quality, high-value and sustainable ubi products and to generate income from direct sales as well as discuss relevant topics like marketing, new varieties and pest control management.


Bohol has varied modes of land transport ranging from colourful jeepneys and buses to taxis, multicabs, tricycles (motorcycles with sidecars), trisikads (bicycles with sidecars) and habal-habals (motorcycles with extended back seats). The Tagbilaran City tourist pier is serviced by at least 12 shipping lines that have boats sailing to and from various areas in the country. There are 35 trips to Cebu daily, 12 of which are fast ferry catamaran-type vessels that reduce the travel time to at least 90 minutes. There are two trips to Manila per week and there are also ports in other towns in the province. The Jagna port serves as Bohol’s gateway to Mindanao, specifically to Cagayan and Camuguin. Motorized outrigger canoes, locally known as banca, are popularly used for inter-island travel adventures. These boats can be rented from various resorts offering island tour packages or from boat operators around Bohol’s island resort destinations like Panglao, Balicasag, Cabilao and Pamilacan. Most diving operators usually have their own bancas for tours to some of the best dive sites in the island.

There are two airports on the island. The one located in Tagbilaran City is classified as secondary while the one in Ubay town is considered a feeder airport. Development programs at Tagbilaran include construction of a modern airport terminal building and extension of the runway length to 2,500 metres, to handle larger aircraft that will serve the direct route to Manila. Though a number of national flag carriers are already servicing Tagbilaran, a proposed international airport has been planned on the nearby Panglao Island to accommodate even bigger aircraft and handle greater volumes of passengers and tourists to the province. This has generated considerable controversy because it makes no economic sense and associated proposals to build artificial islands off Panglao to accommodate upscale tourists are opposed by local fishermen and environmentalists. Preliminary estimates from the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project 2004  plus  suggest some 1,200 species of decapod crustaceans and between 5,000-6,000 species of crustaceans were found around Panglao island and the reason it is on the World Heritage Site tentative list submitted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. Local scientists have reiterated that any proposed waterfront reclamation projects cannot compensate for the richness of Panglao Bay’s marine biodiversity once it is damaged.

Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing

In 1565 a Spanish explorer arrived in Bohol to look for spices and gold. After convincing the native chieftains that they were not Portuguese, he made a peace pact with Datu Sikatuna. This pact was signified with a blood compact between the two men. This event, called Sandugo (“one blood”), is celebrated in Bohol every year during the Sandugo Festival. The Sandugo or blood compact is also depicted on Bohol’s provincial flag and the Bohol provincial seal. Today, Bohol is fast becoming a popular tourist destination with its Chocolate Hills, white-sand beaches and various traditional festivals like Sandugo and Ubi. Panglao Island is one of the top tourist resorts in the Philippines, famous for its beautiful dive spots and coral reef. Other tourism assets include centuries-old churches and towers, waterfalls and caves, historical landmarks, as well as rich fauna and flora both in the terrestrial and underwater environments. Further information about all these attractions and how to visit them can be obtained from these two sites .

It is worthy to note that the Province of Bohol hosted the First National Eco-tourism Congress in 1999 where eco-tourism and its role in sustainable development of natural and cultural resources were defined. More so, Bohol has been identified as one of the key sites that became the focus of concerted efforts for integrating biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism now being further implemented under a subsequent framework plan 2006-2015 in response to the National Eco-tourism Strategy and Program of the Philippine Government. To some extent, NGOs have initiated the development of community-based eco-tourism destinations in the province that have now started to establish their market niches such as the dolphin and whale watching tour in Pamilacan Island, the Cambuhat River and Village Tour in Buenavista, the Candijay Mangrove Adventure Tour or the variety of other tours in Rajah Sikatuna National Park. More and more projects have come about in other municipalities as the economic and conservation-enabling benefits of eco-tourism enterprises have surfaced to the fore. This is in addition to the Boholanos inherent cultural trait and pride to welcome visitors with warmth and hospitality.

Biodiversity & Protected Areas

Bohol’s local government was the first in Southeast Asia to acquire an Environmental Management Systems certification. As part of its fight against poverty, the provincial government carried out initiatives and offered management tools to preserve the natural heritage and provide employment opportunities. These included the creation of the Bohol Biodiversity Conservation Framework, the founding of the Biodiversity Research Centre, the implementation of the Biodiversity Monitoring System, publication of its Coastal Environmental Profile and the implementation of the Coastal Resource Management (CRM) Certification System.

A UNDP-GEF funded project ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Management of the Bohol Marine Triangle (BMT) 2002-2006’ was successfully completed and produced various results detailed in these papers.   The BMT spans over 1,120 square kilometers and includes the islands of Panglao, Pamilacan, Balicasag and Bohol. Around 54,000 people live in the region’s municipalities with another 22,000 in 12 coastal barangays. The sea environment of the BMT ranges from 32 to 57 meters deep and provides migratory routes as well as a habitat for whales and dolphins and a variety of other marine life.  Eleven of the 22 known species of marine mammals in the Philippines have been reported in the area. Three out of the world’s eight species of sea turtles as well as rare and/or endangered species of pelagic fishes such as whale sharks, devil manta and stingrays. Many species of seahorses and giant clams are found in the BMT, which is also known for its wide variety of seashells and its migratory birds. The BMT contains extensive coral reef habitats in conditions ranging from good (reefs with 50 percent live hard coral cover) to excellent. Coral diversity is high and estimates of fish species richness in the area vary from 15 to 46 species per 500 square meters of coral reef, with up to 5000 individual fish within the same area.

Bohol is famous for its endemic wide-eyed tarsiers. Unfortunately, many of these small nocturnal primates were being trapped and caged by locals to make money from visitors who wished to see, handle and take pictures of them until the Philippine Tarsier Foundation was established in 1997 to implement a conservation program. The Foundation runs a small sanctuary less than a half-hour drive from the capital and is nestled within a larger protected forest where many other wild tarsier are believed to live, protected by a permanent logging ban. The Tarsius Project led by a Czech zoologist from Decin Zoo has also been focusing on research and conservation of the Philippine tarsier since 2009.

Integrated Development Planning

The Danajon Bank located off northern Bohol is the only double barrier reef in the Philippines and one of only three such sites in the Indo-Pacific. The reef system is spread across almost 130 km and its associated habitats and fisheries, inshore and offshore, comprise a complex management area that has been the focus of a case study on ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Philippines. The Project Seahorse Foundation for Marine Conservation has also been working with local fisher families in the Danajon Bank to better manage their coastal resources.

Seventeen municipalities, belonging to 4 provinces and 2 regions, each have an exclusive area of political jurisdiction over the Danajon Bank where an estimated 28,240 fisherfolk reside within coastal and island villages. Ten National Integrated Protected Area System sites have been established within the Danajon Bank boundaries, specifically, 7 strict nature reserves and 3 protected seascapes. More than 60 community and municipal-based marine protected areas have been set up and are in various stages of implementation. The Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) project activities focus on 4 Bohol municipalities with jurisdiction on the Danajon Bank and the coastal municipality of Bien Unido is the main centre for seaweed farming in Bohol.

Participatory Research, Organization of Communities and Education towards Struggle for Self-reliance (PROCESS) started its operation in Bohol in March 1985 in the coastal municipality of Tubigon. Since then, it has been continuously facilitating the formation and strengthening of people’s organizations from the fisherfolk, women, urban poor and farming sectors province-wide. The Regional Center of Expertise-Bohol is a network of multi-agency development organizations that collaboratively work in a synergistic pattern for the realization of the goals of education for sustainable development. Amongst other things, it established the Regional Climate Change Center and Center for Agribusiness and Sustainable Agriculture.

Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures

As a limestone island province, Bohol’s coastal areas are prone to land subsidence due to over-extraction of groundwater. Local perceptions, however, bolstered by time series data of these areas from local NGOs and government units, indicate that this phenomenon is probably due to rising sea levels, rather than land subsidence, or normal erosion. Against a background of various press reports stating several small islands around Bohol like Guindakpan, Calituban and Calape were either experiencing significant intrusion of sea water during high tides, or were literally being submerged, the first Bohol Climate Change Summit was held March 2010 in Tagbilarin City. The following year a three-day regional forum on climate change was hosted by Bohol Island State University where a series of climate change mitigation measures especially related to forestry were proposed. The Philippines National Framework Strategy on Climate Change 2010-2022 highlights the potential of the country’s forestry sector to serve as a ‘carbon sink’, effectively mitigating the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions via the absorption of carbon dioxide by the sector. 

There has been a history of Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) projects in the Philippines. However, stringent government policies in securing resource use permits and environmental compliance certificates as well as the requirement for a 100% inventory of trees in a proposed CBFM area don’t make things easy for farmers with no money or requisite skills. In the neighbouring province to Bohol of Southern Leyte, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is assisting farmers in managing a long term CBFM project that aims to reforest denuded mountains and address climate change concerns at the same time. The Young Innovators for Social and Environmental Development Association (YISEDA) are continuously planting more trees in addition to over 400,000 seedlings planted so far at the Saint Francis Nature Park. The reforestation area is one of the pilot sites for the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project of the DENR funded by a German aid agency. The success story of Yisedai could be replicated in other upland communities of the Philippines that are facing rapid forest depletion.

On Bohol, the Japanese Kanepackage (KP) Group of Companies is expanding their mangrove tree planting project to Banacon Island that already has an extensive mangrove plantation with established scenic trails. It is an eco-tourist destination with an approximate area of 425 hectares of mangrove forest established through community effort started since 1957. The KP packaging firm with offices in the country has already planted more than 400,000 mangroves in Olango Island since the launching of its Green Earth program in 2009 to plant five million mangrove propagules. The Candijay Mangrove Forest is another major CBFM project that together with others have been subject to further studies.