Villar underscores protection of wetlands
(The Philippine Star) - March 13, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Cynthia Villar has underscored that the environmental and agricultural benefits of wetlands and sounded anew the alarm against acts that threaten their existence.

In a privilege speech before fellow senators, Villar illustrated the case of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), a declared wetland of international importance, which is threatened by a planned reclamation in the area.

Villar echoed the article on the Ramsar website, which said LPPCHEA faces threats associated with being located near densely populated areas, reclamation projects and mangrove cutting.

“Some of the common benefits from wetlands include providing water supply and irrigation, fisheries, livestock grazing, cultivation, grass, and wild plants for food, craft and medicinal use. Those benefits are linked to the livelihood of the people as well,” Villar said.

Villar added that wetlands have a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and in the ecosystem at large.

“After Typhoon Yolanda, we have also realized that they provide a solid protection against strong typhoons and storm surges, particularly the mangroves. The environmental benefits are numerous. To cite a few more: flood control, maintenance of dry-season river flows, groundwater recharge, water purification, climate change regulation, erosion control, soil formation,” Villar said.

Villar also said that the importance of wetland agriculture is becoming widely recognized. In fact, a study showed that more than 78 percent of all Ramsar sites supported agricultural activities. In Africa and Asia in particular, which cover more than 170 million hectares, 66 percent and 48 percent of them, respectively, are listed as being used for agriculture.

The Philippines has a number of wetlands, including the Candaba Swamp in Bulacan and Pampanga, Laguna de Bay in Rizal and Laguna, Taal Lake in Batangas, Tayabas Bay in Quezon, Lake Buhi in Camarines Sur, Inabangan coast in Bohol, Leyte Sab-A Basin in Leyte, and Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte.

Villar delivered the privilege speech days before the anniversary of the declaration of LPPCHEA as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention on March 15 last year. She also mounted a photo exhibit at the Senate to mark the occasion.

LPPCHEA qualified as a Ramsar wetland of international importance because of its compliance with the Criteria 2, 4, and 6 under Ramsar’s “Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance.” These are:

• Criterion 2: It supports vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.

• Criterion 4: It supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions.

• Criterion 6: It regularly supports one percent of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of water bird.

Six Philippines sites have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance. These are the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan; the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park in Sulu; the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary; the Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro; and the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu.

LPPCHEA serves as a sanctuary to migratory bird species from as far as Siberia. According to the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, Metro Manila has 150 species of birds, 84 of which are found at LPPCHEA.

“It is the only bird sanctuary located in an urban setting. There are also numerous trees and plants that are indigenous to our country thriving there. And of course, there are mangroves around the area. Because of its biodiversity, LPPCHEA was declared as a critical habitat in 2007 by Presidential Proclamation 1412,” Villar said.

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