Rapid increase in population, urbanization and industrialization
reduce the quality of Philippine waters. The discharge of
domestic and industrial wastewater and agriculture runoff has
caused extensive pollution of the coastal water bodies. This
effluent is in the form or raw sewage, detergents, fertilizers,
heavy metals, chemical products, oil and solid waste.
The extent of water pollution in the Philippines Bays can be
gleaned from the frequent occurrence of red tide since it first
came to the attention in 1983. Red tide usually occurs when
high organic loading from rivers drain into bays resulting in
harmful algal blooms (HABs).
From 1983 to 2001, a total of 42 toxic outbreaks have resulted
in a total of 2,107 paralytic shellfish poisoning cases with 117
deaths. Earlier, only a few coastal areas of the country
were affected in scattered locations, but today, this has grown
to a total of 20 coastal areas.
For Manila Bay, during the 1992 Pyrodinium red-tide outbreak,
around outbreak, around 38,500 fisherfolks were displaced from
their livelihood due to the red tide scare. Estimated economic
losses for displaced fisherfolks was PhP 3.4 billion (in 2002
prices). (Environmental Monitor 2003)
In response to this phenomenon the Inter-Agency Committees on
Environmental Health chaired by the Department of Health (DOH)
created the National Red Tide Task Force (NRTTF) composed of different
government agencies and academic institutions chaired by the Bureau
of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Agriculture.
The National Red Tide Task Force (NRTTF) is mandated to monitor
toxic red tides in our country. This is to protect the public
from the illness and death caused by the red tide toxin and also
to mitigate its negative impact to the shellfish industry. A
regular issuance of the red tide update is also being undertaken.
The ultimate goal of the NRTTF is to minimize, if not, stop
the occurrence of Paralytic shellfish Poisoning (PSP) in our country
during toxic red tide outbreaks, through an effective management
system that can successfully management and mitigate recurring
outbreaks of harmful algal blooms and decentralize the management
of shellfish bans to the provincial level.
The red tide policies on the imposition and lifting of the
shellfish ban formulated by the NRTTF will certainly
guide red tide managers especially the Local Government Units
(LGUs) in the effective management of toxic red tide. The
policies are based on the data collected through time by the Bureau
of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the LGUs.