FOR the past two decades, mangrove communities around the Visayan Sea, and other parts of the Philippines have come under tremendous threat from development pressures. Some of the more direct threats to mangrove communities have emerged from development proposals and actual project implementations requiring reclamation of mangrove lands for airport runway construction, port expansions and road development. More vivid and succinct example is the clearing of mangroves and salt beds in Iloilo to give way to the creation of a new, modern commercial district.
In the short term, there is considerable potential for these projects to result in positive economic gains. However, in the medium to long term these gains may well be diminished by the negative economic outcomes that may arise from the loss of the ecosystem goods and services provided by the mangrove communities. Yet another seismic type of development affecting the mangroves of Iloilo is the recent expansion of Iloilo City’s latest Park development—Esplanades 3 to 9.
Based on information from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Western Visyas regional office, Esplanades 3 to 9 will cover both sides of the Iloilo River from Diversion Road in Mandurriao, Iloilo City to Muelle Loney area in City Proper district. This lateral park meant to showcase the beauty and cleanliness of the Iloilo River has resulted in the dying of at least four dozens of grown mangrove trees. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Western Visayas through its Executive Director has raised concern over the impact of the construction of the lateral parks on mangroves along the Iloilo River.
A social-ecological situation analysis of the trajectory of development of the Iloilo Esplanade shows the absence of popularisation of key environmental research findings, policy analysis and policy advocacy regarding the economic consequences of mangrove removal. A cursory review of the social processes of the development of the Iloilo Esplanades almost nil advocacy on the vital need for the preservation of the affected mangroves.
Jim Sampulna, DENR Western Visayas executive director, did call the attention of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Western Visayas on the mangrove trees that are affected by the Iloilo Esplanade projects. He reported to mass media in August 2017 that around five mangrove trees are dying or have died because of changes in water salinity due to reclamation of parts of the Iloilo River.
Input from the research/academic community came only from one—retired scientist and mangrove specialist Jurgenne Primavera who protested earth-balling. Primavera said earth-balling of mangrove trees is not effective and is impractical because of the risk of exposing the roots and root hairs of mangroves. She cited the thousands of mangrove trees that were affected and had died in the construction of the Iloilo Flood Control project.
Change in the state of ecosystem is multi-faceted, but the key concern of this writer, is the way that mangrove forest and salt marshes have been extensively cleared and converted to industrial and commercial development. It is a well- known fact that more than 60 percent of the Philippine population lives within what are considered coastal areas. All major cities and most large industries are located close to the sea.
Exploited for urban development—new commercial/trade/financial districts, parks, resort and recreation, the Philippine estuaries and mangroves have been greatly depleted. According to ONEOCEAN Infomations - OneOcean.org, mangrove forests are declining according to at a rate of 2,000 ha/year with only 120,000 ha of mangrove forests remaining today from the 160,000 ha 20 years ago.
It is for the above cited critical situation of the country’s mangrove forest and coastal marine resources that the Southeast-East Asia Centre for Resource Studies Consultancy & Training (Seacrest) proposed action research to ERDB.
May the DENR-ERDB take note of the high relevance and importance of such action research which can be piloted in Region VI, or Western Visayas. ACT and approve the much needed research and retooling of ERDB technical officers.