In line with its core emphasis on sustainable tourism and environmentally conscious living, Costa Del Hamilo, Inc. (CDHI), a leader in the leisure resort industry and the movers behind Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas, recently completed a Marine Protected Area (MPA) assessment. The sites targeted were three of 12 coves in the property, established as MPAs for CDHI’s Sustainable Development Project, implemented from 2017 to 2019.
The concept of a marine protected area or MPA is an approach to marine conservation that has been around since the 1970s, and has proven effective in many places in the world surrounded by oceans, and where fishing is a way of life. It becomes an even more important strategy in a country like the Philippines, which is located smack in the middle of the global hotspot of natural abundance known as the Coral Triangle.
The presence of an MPA has, in fact, become a good indicator of quality of life. An MPA safeguards an area’s biological diversity, preserves natural habitats, keeps fish and other resources available for those who need them, and encourages low-impact tourism. As an added bonus, the presence of a protected area also guarantees the aesthetics of its immediate surroundings, with the absence of pollution and intrusive human activities highlighting nature’s beauty.
Carrying out the assessment was the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF), the Philippine office of the globally renowned environmental organization, which has been working with CDHI since 2007 to monitor the health and viability of the Hamilo Coast area. WWF assisted the developers in identifying the MPAs of Santelmo, Etayo, and Pico De Loro.
The MPAs were assessed based on three parameters: benthic, or the conditions of the sea bottom in the area; fish life, which measures the species and number of fish present; and invertebrate population, which includes familiar reef creatures like sea urchins, clams, lobsters, and starfish.
Despite a significant 2016 episode of coral bleaching— the latest results were encouraging. In Etayo Cove, hard coral cover had been accumulating even before the bleaching episode, and despite evidence of fishing activity, the reefs were moderately healthy.
Most promising, however, were the results for Santelmo Cove, where the live hard coral cover was estimated at 61 percent after continually increasing over the years, putting the reefs in excellent condition. In fact, fast-growing, branching corals dominated this area, a clear sign that this resilient MPA has recovered well from the scourge of bleaching. The number of fish species recorded had also increased over the years, and the presence of clams and lobsters proved that the reefs could indeed support its residents.
The MPA assessment underscores CDHI’s commitment to maintain the quality and integrity of the area’s waters to protect the marine ecosystem they support. Hamilo Coast, after all, is a pioneering seaside community that combines an unspoiled environment and low-impact man-made facilities and amenities to create a remarkable nature-based experience.
“As developers, we are not only involved in cultivating land, but we also take the responsibility to think of ways to nurture and augment this diversified natural environment,” says Frank Bolalin, Assistant Vice President for Hamilo Estate Management. “Ultimately, this is what makes Hamilo Coast not just a premium beach resort development, but a safe and healthy habitat.”
Thus, tourist management and responsible water activities will remain part of the Hamilo experience. Monitoring will continue to be carried out to manage populations of Crown of Thorns starfish (Acanthaster plancii), which feed on coral. To formalize community-based law enforcement, a coast watch, known in seaside barangays as the Bantay Dagat, will continue to be organized to patrol the coves and control overfishing, as well as any use of destructive fishing methods using cyanide, dynamite, and large nets.
It takes conscientious development, backed by science and based on principles of sustainability, to produce ideal communities—and a lifestyle truly in harmony with the best nature can offer.
Hamilo Coast is a master-planned seaside residential community in Nasugbu, Batangas,developed and managed by Costa del Hamilo, Inc., a subsidiary of SM Prime. It is approximately 90 minutes from Manila via Cavitex and the Ternate-Nasugbu Road. For inquiries, call tel. no. 7945-8000 or visit www.hamilocoast.com.