Editorial: Make it mangroves

MEMORY empties too fast for society’s good. Last July 31, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 halted a real estate developer whose project reportedly damaged 200 mangrove trees in Liloan.

A cease-and-desist order was filed against the Psalm Property Venture and Development Corp. (PPVDC) for damaging mangroves in a timberland area in Sitio Tulay, Cotcot in its backfilling operations for the La Costa Ivyza Subdivision project.

Last March, or four months earlier, the DENR 7 contracted 14 people’s organizations (POs) to restore approximately 180 hectares of mangroves and beach forest plantations in 11 northern towns in Cebu that bore the brunt of super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.

Mangroves act as natural barriers slowing down the effects of climate change and weakening the impact of waves on coastlines and vulnerable coastal settlements.

Myriad benefits

In March 2015, mangrove reforestation was prioritized by the DENR 7 to aid the recovery of families devastated by Yolanda’s battering of seaside communities in Bantayan Island, Camotes Island, Daanbantayan, Medellin, San Remigio, Bogo City, Tabogon, Borbon, Sogod, Catmon and Carmen.

The work-for-food program had also a long-term objective: mitigate the effects of climate change in a sustainable manner. As essential as the protection of coastal communities from storm surges and flooding is the restoration of coastal resources through the protection, reforestation and management of mangrove plantations.

Mangroves serve as nurseries for marine life, particularly fish, shellfish, prawns and crabs. They replenish nearshore fish stocks so fishermen don’t have to set out far from shore, requiring more resources and exposing them to more risk. If managed well by coastal communities, mangroves also provide families with firewood, lumber and other resources they can use for household needs or sell for extra funds.

There are also other immediate rewards beyond protecting the ecology and promoting self-sustainability and livelihood. The Banacon Island Mangrove Forest in Jetafe, Bohol is an eco-tourist destination attracting a variety of visitors, from scientists to tree-huggers inspired by a community’s commitment to protect 425 hectares of mangroves since 1957.

Collective commitment

Only the myopic see the importance of mangroves as primarily coastal. The advocacy for mangrove reforestation and rehabilitation is part of wider efforts to protect reefs in Central Visayas.

According to DENR 7 officials, Central Visayas is at the core of the “Coral Triangle,” which also includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

Reports place the Philippines at the apex of the Coral Triangle due to its marine biodiversity. On the other hand, the country is also at the apex of global marine hotspots. Researchers have identified the threats posed by overfishing, marine pollution and coastal development to the Coral Triangle.

Efforts of the DENR 7 to monitor closely and act swiftly against violators of Presidential Proclamation 2146 and Republic Act 7161, which ban the cutting of mangroves, must be complemented by civil society efforts to assist in rehabilitating mangrove and coastal forestry plantations.

Among the mangrove replanting sites in Cebu are Tulic in Argao, Cabiangkon in Pinamungajan, Dawis Norte in Carmen, and Inoburan in Naga City. Groups planning to undertake mangrove planting must coordinate with the local government unit and the DENR 7 to know important technical information, such as the mangrove species appropriate for local planting and the timing of low tide to ease the planting. The planting of “Kulo (bread fruit)” and “Talisay” trees also shields coastal homes and anchors the soil.

Mangrove planting is ideally carried out before the onset of the wet season. Yet environmentalists advocate year-round vigilance and involvement in protecting, preserving and managing the ecology.

Although Presidential Proclamation 1482 declares the month of April as the Philippines’ Earth Month, environmentalists urge an evergreen mentality to make every day part of a continuing commitment to make “Earth Day every day, everywhere, for everyone,” which was the Earth Day theme for the past three years.
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