Questions and concerns about mangroves and DENR
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - June 8, 2019 - 12:00am

We join the call of environmental advocate Atty. Gloria “Golly” Estenzo Ramos for “an investigation and accountability for those conspiring to destroy the mangroves in Dumanjug” which, according to her, “is part of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape and covered by the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.”

Golly asked: “How can DENR issue an earth-balling permit for mangroves? Don’t mangroves provide the best buffer against storms that humans could not even hope to replicate? Surely, the DENR knows that uprooting, even earth-balling of mangrove trees, is tantamount to killing them?”

DENR Western Visayas Director Jim Sampulna “stopped the earth-balling of mangroves as part of the expansion of the Iloilo River park project,” when he observed that “transplanting mangroves results to a very low survival rate.” Barangay Tapon residents reported witnessing “the rather negligent ways the “earth-balled” trees were treated --these were merely dumped in the corner, some pruned and some chopped for firewood.”

Surely, the DENR, mandated to protect our environment and natural resources, knows the importance of mangroves, “the rainforests of the sea?”

For the public’s information, here are some reasons why mangroves matter and are important (see https://ecoviva.org/7-reasons-mangroves-matter/).

One, mangrove forests are incredibly important ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots. According to a 2014 study, mangrove forests provide ecosystem services (benefits to humans) valued at $194,000 per hectare annually. Mangroves provide nesting and breeding habitat for fish and shellfish, migratory birds, and sea turtles. An estimated 80% of the global fish catch relies on mangrove forests either directly or indirectly.

Two, livelihood. Healthy mangrove ecosystems mean healthy fisheries from which to fish, and healthy land on which to farm.

Three, mangroves are essential to maintaining water quality, filtering, and trapping sediments, heavy metals, and other pollutants. This ability to retain sediments flowing from upstream prevents contamination of downstream waterways and protects sensitive habitat like coral reefs and seagrass beds below.

Four, mangroves are the first line of defense for coastal communities. They stabilize shorelines by slowing erosion and provide natural barriers protecting coastal communities from increased storm surge, flooding, and hurricanes.

Five, mangroves are excellent carbon storages sequestering carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests and store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests. This means that conserving and restoring mangroves is essential to fighting climate change that is already having disastrous effects on communities worldwide.

Six, aside from food, mangroves provide other materials like wood and other extracts for both building and medicinal purposes. Their potential as a source for novel biological materials, such as antibacterial compounds and pest-resistance genes, remains largely undiscovered.

Seven, mangroves have an untapped potential for sustainable revenue-generating initiatives including ecotourism, sport fishing, and other recreational activities.

Surely, the DENR knows the importance of mangroves for our environment, our communities, and our people?

Surely, the DENR also knows that “locally-led community development can offer economic growth without compromising coastal ecosystems?”

Did the DENR consider other eco-friendly measures and practices that could have protected the valuable mangroves?

We join Atty. Golly in asking: Who will speak for the mangroves and the species that depend on them for survival - and I am talking not just about the fish, the crustaceans, but about you and me and the future generations!

Given the importance of mangroves, we share Atty. Golly’s concern that “it is perplexing the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and some local government units act as if they could not care less.”

Oh, if only all care more!

PROTECTED AREAS SYSTEM ACT
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