Wetlands Conservation and Management Team of CENRO Calauag facilitated the 2nd public consultation on May 20, 2022, with Lopez (Lalaguna) Marshland Development and Management Council (LMDMC) and other stakeholders ―as part of the proposal to declare Lalaguna Marsh as critical habitat.
The undertaking is also a part of a series of consultation that aims to involve the Lopez LGU, concerned BLGUs, and other stakeholders of Lalaguna Marshland in providing their views and feedback, and ensure their support in case the Lalaguna Marsh is found suitable for establishment as critical habitat.
The consultation specifically earmarks to verify the titled lands within the periphery of the Lalaguna Marsh and seek landowners' affirmation on future regulations, if ever the Lalaguna Marsh will be declared as critical habitat.
Said lands were priorly assessed through a ground truthing conducted by CENRO Calauag and LMDMC last February 2022. Recognizing that Lalaguna Marsh is an inland wetland surrounded by private land inhabitants, the assessment of the area covered by Lalaguna Marsh and support from stakeholders are of prime importance.
Highlighted in the consultation were the wetland ecosystem services that the Lalaguna Marsh provides to the community and the environment. As well, its significance if ever will be declared as critical habitat.
Critical habitats refer to areas outside protected areas under Republic Act No. 7586 that are known habitats of threatened species and designated as such based on scientific data. Also taken into consideration with these areas are the species endemicity, richness, presence of man-made threats to the survival of wildlife living in the area, and others. (DENR MC No. 02, 2007)
Relatively, Critical Habitats (CH) is not as same as the legislated Protected Areas (PA) in terms of funding, wherein the activities on conservation and protection of the PA and wildlife species, as well as the developments therein, are funded directly by the government through the DENR.
Per record, Lalaguna Marsh is inhabited by a diverse species of migratory and resident birds. With two of them, the Philippine duck and Baer’s Pochard are threatened and classified as vulnerable and critically endangered, respectively by IUCN Red List.
Based on DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2007-02 otherwise known as the “Guidelines on the Establishment and Management of Critical Habitat,” the primary consideration in determining the areas for establishment as critical habitat is the presence of threatened species in an area. The sightings of Philippine duck and Baer’s pochard has led to the drive of the CENRO Calauag, LMDMC, and other stakeholders to proclaim Lalaguna Marshland as critical habitat.
However, the approval of the stakeholders, specifically, the titled land owners, is of main relevance to the success of the undertakings in Lalaguna Marsh.
Meanwhile, DMO III and Chief, CRFMS Jefferson G. Cruz stressed that the community should have conservation strategies and well-managed plan for Lalaguna Marsh towards sustainable development. He added that through this, the protection of individual population counts of bird species thriving in Lalaguna Marsh can be secured.
Stakeholders from concerned barangays (Lalaguna, Tan-ag Ibaba, and Tocalin), Lopez MENR Officer, Lopez Tourism Officer, Lopez Sangguniang Bayan Secretary, CENRO personnel, and Conservation and Development Division (CDD) staffs of DENR Region 4A were among the partakers that signified support for the proposal to declare Lalaguna Marsh as Critical Habitat.