Mangrove rehab marks Ocean Month celebration

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AT LEAST 1,000 mangrove propagules were planted along some 100-meter stretch of the Saysayin River in Bagac town in Bataan to fortify the province’s shores and establish a strong barrier against tsunami and storm surges.

Hundreds of DENR personnel and local officials together with a contingent from the local police, the Bagac Sagip Pawikan and Montemar Beach Resort, descended on Saysayin River at low tide to do the planting in commemoration of the month of May as Month of the Ocean, reported Director Francisco Milla Jr. of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Central Luzon.

This year’s  theme “Mangroves Protect, Protect Mangroves” aims to draw public attention on the environmental importance of protecting and conserving our mangrove areas in the face of the growing threats of global warming and climate change particularly on archipelagic and small island countries like the Philippines, he explained.

Similar mangrove planting and shore fortification activities also took place in the beaches of Sta. Cruz in Zambales as part of the activities for the Month of the Ocean which was first celebrated in 1999 through Presidential Proclamation 57 signed by Pres. Joseph Estrada.

Mangrove forests serve as barrier against tsunamis and storm surges. They also serve as spawning ground and habitat for countless marine animals as well as migratory birds, and provide livelihood to local fisherfolks, explained DENR environmental specialist Merliza Torre.

Earlier, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje earmarked some P347 million for the massive restoration of mangrove and natural beach forests in Yolanda-stricken areas in Eastern Visayas, particularly the province of Leyte and its capital Tacloban City.

Under PD 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, “all mangrove swamps set aside for coast-protection purposes shall not be subject to clear-cutting operation.”

The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 also prohibits the unlawful conversion of mangroves into fishpond and other purposes. Violators face six to 12 years of imprisonment and fine of up to P80,000.

Milla said mangrove rehabilitation contributes to national efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of global warming and climate change, and supports the conservation, protection and sustainable management of the country’s coastal and ocean resources.

There are at least 955 hectares of mangrove forests that shield Central Luzon’s 922-kilometer coastline from the onslaught of tsunami and storm surges known locally as “daluyong”.