On April 26, the Guimaras Environment and Natural Resources Office (GENRO) hosted a mangrove conservation event in Bgy. San Isidro, Sibunag, Guimaras, to commemorate Earth Day.
Joining the intimate celebration were Dr. Miguel D. Fortes of the Marine Science Institute CS in UP Diliman, Quezon City, Forester Eva Garovillas of DENR, and Guimaras stakeholders, composed of mangrove growers, fisher folks and farmers.
At the open hall of San Isidro’s Barangay Hall, the participants sat during the high heat of the afternoon to listen to the series of talks pertaining to the importance of proper mangrove conservation.
Ms. Juneline Dela Cruz of GENRO broke the ice by giving an update on the South Korea-Philippine Collaborative Project for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Framework of Guimaras Province III. Among others, the project aims to implement the Management Plan of the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the towns of San Lorenzo and Sibunag.
Ms. Dela Cruz informed the components of the Yeosu-funded project, which includes: the Finalization and Approval of MPA Management Plans; Installation of MPA Management Facilities; Operation of Protected Area or Sanctuary Management Boards; Pollution Control, Restoration of Habitats like mangroves, sea grass and corals; Monitoring and Education; and Reporting, Presentation and Promotion of Activities.
She said that the bamboo installation of the guardhouse and footbridge within 300 hectares of core and buffer zones is almost completed, including the placement of marker buoys and sinkers in strategic places in time for the said project’s inauguration on June 7.
The said event will be attended by the Yeosu Foundation representatives and incumbent government officials.
Moving on to the graver issues pertaining to the survival of mangroves, Ms. Dela Cruz and her colleagues at GENRO mentioned that one factor causing the mangroves to have high mortality rates is that farmers lead their cows and carabaos to mangrove areas where they feed on the plants, especially during this time of El Nino when water is scarce.
She then urged the people to address the need “to return the mangroves to their original healthy and pristine state so that everybody benefits.”
Forester Garvillas of the DENR in Guimaras was the next to give a talk, saying that, “we have to return the beauty of Mother Earth after so much destruction that we humans have caused”. Thus, by doing so, she emphasized the need to follow the three R’s, which are Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
The last to give a talk was Dr. Miguel D. Fortes of the Marine Science Institute in UP Diliman, Quezon City.
“When planting mangroves”, Dr. Fortes explained, “there are problems needed to be addressed. First, in unsuitable sites, crabs graze on the plantings; second, when sea grass and algal drifts in, they get entangled around the planted seedlings, and when the tide recedes, they get dry and become bacteria on the young parts of the plants; third, are the goats, cows and carabaos feeding on mangroves; fourth is when people step on the plantings; and lastly, is that pollutants from factories are not only harmful to the mangroves but also to the entire ecosystem.”
Dr. Fortes stressed the importance of proper mangrove planting as the major path to the sustenance of the mangroves. This way more benefits accrue both to the ecosystem and the community.
Some corrective measures for mangrove planting, according to Dr. Fortes, include:
- Refraining from planting seedlings when seaweeds (especially Sargassum) are in their peak because they entangle the plantings, and as the tide recedes, they get exposed to the sun and decay into bacteria that kill the plants’ growing points;
- Understanding first the suitability of the area in order to identify the appropriate kind of species before planting;
- Regular monitoring of the most critical factors (i.e., water levels, grazers, etc.) according to correct procedures; and
- Adopting practices appropriate to the respective site since each one has its own unique conditions and requirements.
While reasons for planting mangroves are relevant, they become the motivating factor to sustain and conserve the mangroves. Such reasons vary from protecting the fishpond and the coast to the reason that planting mangroves has been endorsed and financed by the government, in relation to the DENR’s aim to raise mangroves in order to meet their required quality and quantity of timber. Dr. Fortes also shared that scientists should adopt a more practical approach to growing mangroves by letting them thrive on their own without external subsidies and artificial help from us, humans.
As a passionate marine expert, Dr. Fortes aims to return to Guimaras Island more often and provide proper education to the mangrove protectors for its sustainability. After the talks, the participants walked to the nearby mangrove coast and planted around 150 seedlings.
The surfacing of mangrove roots along the cove, as Dr. Fortes described, was a strong evidence of erosion, which has been brought about by stronger winds and bigger waves.
Some mangrove seedlings (bakawan) were planted in the muddy side of the cove, while some (bungalon, pagatpat) were planted at the opposite end, where the substrate was more sandy and gravelly.
When all the seedlings have been planted, the core group moved to barangay San Lorenzo for an ocular visit of the MPA being established by the Yeosu-funded project.
Within the wide mouth of the mangrove coast is a long bamboo footbridge that was stable enough to walk on. The guardhouse was nearing completion, as well as the marker buoys and sinkers.
The next day, Dr. Fortes and four officers of GENRO visited three other mangrove sites in order to monitor growth and survival of the seedlings, which have been planted earlier.
The aim of the activity was to assess whether the areas of the mangroves are getting smaller or expanding. The results of the project will be incorporated in the Senior High School curricula of the Department of Education in Guimaras.