Mangroves, though tough against storms must be nurtured as well

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Mangroves, though tough against storms must be nurtured as well

Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) magnified the importance of healthy mangrove forests in saving lives when the bakawan as it is locally known or mangrove stands buffered winds and slowed down the rush of ocean waves or storm surges into human communities in many affected areas in the Visayas.

            No less than Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje conceded that Yolanda had compellingly drawn the nation’s attention to the increasingly important role of mangrove and beach forests. He ordered more focus and the intensification of mangrove forest rehabilitation--the planting and growing of more mangrove propagules-- not only in the Visayas but in all parts of the archipelago under the National Greening Program. 

            In Luzon, in the CALABARZON region, attention is focused on a mangrove swamp in Barangay Palsabangon Ibaba, municipality of Pagbilao, in the Province of Quezon, called the Pagbilao Mangrove Experimental Forest.     

            The mangrove experimental forest is being managed by DENR Region 4A CALABARZON’s Ecosystems Research and Development Service through the Technology Transfer and Information Division and Quezon Ecosystems Research and Center.

            ERDS-TTID chief Forester Oliver Viado agreed with Secretary Paje. Viado revealed that the DENR is also looking forward to transforming  abandoned government-leased fishponds back to mangrove forests. This will be done not only for protection against storm surges but also to boost food resources location and livelihood opportunities for coastal communities, he added.

 

 

            “The 145-hectare Pagbilao Mangrove Experimental Forest is home to 48 true mangrove and mangrove associate species.” Viado further revealed, “This is where the most diverse mangrove species are found.”

            Of the world’s more than 70 mangrove species, around 46 species are known to exist in various parts of the Philippines, he claimed.    

            “Mangroves not endemic in the area were collected elsewhere in the country, brought here, reared and propagated for possible distribution to other parts of the country for mangrove rehabilitation. Hence, even before super Yolanda, the DENR had already prioritized the propagation of mangrove forests,” he added

            “The mangroves within the station have grown robustly. The forest has withstood the storms,’ he said. “However, some of the facilities and infrastructure including the conference building, board walk, hanging bridge, fisherman’s wharf, bunk  houses and view deck has deteriorated, dilapidated and not usable,” he lamented.

            He said the office was unable to maintain these facilities and infrastructure during the last decade due to limited funds. Prior to the re-establishment as demonstration area in 2013, the annual budget allotted to manage the experimental forest was not even sufficient to hire the minimum number of laborers required to maintain and protect the facilities. Thus, through time, the infrastructures and facilities became dilapidated.

            The more recent typhoon Glenda has rendered some of the facilities unusable. The view deck was the most affected.

            Forester  Viado said that  the experimental forest now serve as a demonstration area of environment and natural resources technology, showcasing mangrove rehabilitation and training. Training participants and visitors come to learn about mangroves.  It serves as a proper venue for lectures on mangroves,  species identification, site suitability assessment, plantation establishment and mangrove nursery management. It was a venue as well for laboratory studies, field trips, recreation, spiritual experiences and even for celebration of anniversaries, weddings and other special family and institutional events.

            But safety and convenience of the training participants and visitors may be compromised with the condition of the facilities. 

            He revealed the ERDS was also tasked to ensure production of quality planting materials  for the National Greening Program. He said the PMEF is a mangrove seed production area itself, hence, a potential source of quality planting materials in support of the NGP.   

            Viado also revealed that to ensure the protection of experimental forest area, they maintain close coordination with the local government units, especially in Barangay Palsabangon, whose officials and Tanods or Barangay Police helped in patrolling the area and protection against poachers.  

            “Protecting the area and bringing back the functionality of the station’s facilities are an enormous task without assistance,” he said.

            The DENR found a benefactor as the Pagbilao Mangrove Experimental Forest has been included as one of six priority sites in the USAID-assisted  Philippines Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program.

            The DENR-USAID-B+WISER Program aims to conserve biodiversity in forest areas, reduce forest degradation in priority watershed and protected areas, build capacity to conserve biodiversity, sustainably  manage forests, support low emission development and contribute to disaster risk reduction.

            The B+WISER program assisted the DENR in organizing a “Stakeholders Workshop for the Management  of the Pagbilao Mangrove Experimental Forest  as a Genetic Resource Area and National  Training Site for Mangroves” on September 17-19, 2014 in nearby Lucena City.   

            The workshop mustered the participation of representatives from the Office of the Governor of Quezon Province, the local governments of barangays Pinagbayanan, Malicboy and Palsabangon, and the municipal government of Pagbilao, the Department of Tourism, the academic community of the Southern Luzon State University, Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation and St. Anne College of the Pacific-Lucena City; the civil society support of the Rotary Club of Pagbilao, and the corporate support of Pagbilao Chamber of Commerce and Industry and TeaM Energy Foundation.

            The participants have indicated support for the rehabilitation and management of PMEF as a whole in an appropriate manner of convergence. The workshop aimed at creating a working vision, agree on a strategy, analyze risks, identify issues and solutions, initiate formation of working teams, set priorities and develop specific plans and a master plan.

            Initially, a memorandum of agreement was signed between the DENR Region 4A CALABARZON and Team Energy Foundation for the renovation of the steel-braced hanging bridge.

            A more comprehensive memorandum of understanding has also been perfected for the joint-DENR-Quezon LGUs-Team Energy Foundation-Academe to refurbish the Pagbilao Mangrove Experimental Forest.

            Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 4A CALABARZON Regional Director Reynulfo A. Juan signed with  TeaM Energy Foundation Inc. Officer-in-Charge Toshiro Kume, Pagbilao Mayor Shierre Ann Portes-Palicpic, Quezon Governor David "Jay jay" C. Suarez, St. Anne College of the Pacific Vice President for Academic and External Affairs Dr. Orlando B. Molina, South Luzon State University President Cecilia Gascon, Rotary Club of Pagbilao’s Juanito Martinez, Pagbilao Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Romerico Alvarez; and Barangay Ibabang Palsabangon Chairman Rodel Merle; the document clinching partnership to rehabilitate, protect, develop and manage the 145-hectares Pagbilao Mangrove Experimental Forest as the national site for education, training and research, and mangrove forest biodiversity and genetic conservation.

            The stakeholders are also in the process of formulating an eco-tourism plan and with the tourism department and the tourism offices of Pagbilao and Quezon provincial government in the lead.

            “The Pagbilao Mangrove Forest, aside from serving as a research and educational facility and as source of quality planting materials for rehabilitating other mangrove forest, is also an eco-tourism potential,” said Viado.