EDITORIAL - Endangered wetlands
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2015 - 12:00am

The last time wetlands hit the headlines, it was in connection with the capture in September 2011 in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur of what would later be certified as the world’s largest crocodile in captivity. Named Lolong, the reptile was taken out of its natural habitat which is supposed to be a wildlife sanctuary, the Agusan Marsh, kept in a pen and turned into a tourist attraction. Not surprisingly, the crocodile died soon after, nearly a year ago this month.

The tragic fate of Lolong dramatizes the situation of the world’s wetlands, which have disappeared by an estimated 64 percent since 1900 because of human development activities. Often dismissed as wastelands, the marshes, swamps, fens and bogs in fact play an important role in maintaining biodiversity, nurturing wildlife, tempering global warming, controlling flooding and drought and protecting coastlines.

The importance of wetlands was officially acknowledged on Feb. 2, 1971, when the international community adopted a convention to preserve the world’s remaining wetlands at a gathering in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The date has since been observed annually as World Wetlands Day. For the Philippines, the convention came into force on Nov. 8, 1994.

Agusan Marsh, with a land area as large as Metro Manila, is one of six spots in the Philippines included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The others are the Naujan Lake Natural Park in Oriental Mindoro, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu, and Palawan’s Underground River national park and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. The latest addition, and possibly the most endangered by pollution and human activities, was designated in March 2013: the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area. This is a 175-hectare coastal wetland in Manila Bay, visible from Coastal Road, that now teems with birds and marine life sheltering in a mangrove forest.

Together, these protected wetlands cover 154,409 hectares. They are part of the national heritage that must be preserved from commercial, industrial and similar human activities.

AGUSAN MARSH COASTAL ROAD CRITICAL HABITAT AND ECOTOURISM AREA FOR THE PHILIPPINES LAS PI MANILA BAY METRO MANILA NAMED LOLONG NAUJAN LAKE NATURAL PARK OLANGO ISLAND WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
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