“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ALBERT EINSTEIN
By Alex P. Vidal
We are glad that during the ceremonial mangrove planting 15th Pista sang Kakahuyan in Ermita, Dumangas, Iloilo last Sept. 27, 2014, Iloilo Governor Arthur D. Defensor Sr. exhorted the residents to plant mangroves for protection.
The activity, held 15 kilometers north of Iloilo City, was replicated in four coastal towns of Iloilo.
Environmentalist and lawyer Teopisto Melliza, who joined the activity, emphasized that it highlighted the tremendous benefits Iloilo will reap by regreening its coasts on one hand, and the grave dangers it faces if its near-decimated mangroves and beach forest went unchecked.
It’s heart-warming to learn that some 500 volunteers from government offices and private groups joined the planting on prearranged areas –three bakhaw proeagules laid beside each pre-dug hill.
Defensor emphasized: “When I was small, I didn’t value mangroves. They were cut down in wide areas not only in Iloilo but in the whole country.”
Saying he learned to appreciate mangroves only in his adult years, Defensor added: “We only learned lately that they are habitat and breeding ground of fishes.”
Melliza said the governor cited Molocaboc Island, Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
“Mangroves transformed the lives of its people: they no longer resort to illegal fishing; they are no longer hungry, and they are now able to send their children to college,” Defensor said.
We actually need a collective effort to save our mangroves by hook or by crook.
When nature is hurting, humans will end up the biggest losers.
There’s no escape for us, living creatures, if nature suffers from neglect, abuse, and man-made sabotage.
When mangroves are dead and we did nothing to help revive them, the future won’t be happier for our children who will inherit the earth.
Mangroves are important in our ecology. Biologically, they adapt to low oxygen, limit salt intake, limit water loss, and nutrient uptake.
Mangroves are always considered as nature’s special gift to mankind.
For mitigation of climate change which generally involves reduction in human emissions of greenhouse gases, scientists suggest a need to increase mangroves.
For instance, the gradual demise of mangroves in the river at the back of the Iloilo Sports Complex in Brgy. Magsaysay, La Paz stretching the adjacent barangays Bakhaw and Bolilao in Mandurriao, has been blamed for upsurge of pollution and other environmental and social issues like erosion, squatter and lack of government programs.
This prompted City Hall, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) to embark on a joint mangrove reforestation project to regreen the riverbanks of the 15-kilometer Iloilo River last year.
The public-private partnership (PPP) in protecting the river is committed to enhance the biodiversity of the Iloilo River and improve the eco-tourism potentials of the area.
While this was developing in the metropolis, it was reported that at least four hectares of old-growth and reforested mangrove areas in Batad, Iloilo were “heavily oiled” bunker fuel.
The oil spill containing 200,000 liters of bunker fuel leaked into the shores of Estancia after the 35-megawatt National Power Barge 103 slammed into the rocky coast of the northern town at the height of super typhoon Yolanda last November 8. Monstrous winds and waves dislodged the barge from its mooring about 200 meters from the coastline of Brgy. Botongon, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
Dr. Rex Sadava, University of the Philippines Visayas’ oil spill program coordinator, has expressed alarm that bunker fuel can severely affect mangroves because it coats the trees and blocks their breathing pores.
The Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed the presence of high levels of the toxic substance benzene in the air, thus a mandatory evacuation had been called by provincial and municipal authorities.
Scientists say mangrove swamps are crucial as they protect coastal areas from erosion, storm surge like the one wrought by Yolanda, and tsunamis. They explain that mangroves’ massive root systems are efficient at dissipating wave energy and slow down tidal water enough so its sediment is deposited as the tide comes in, leaving all except fine particles when the tide ebbs. In this way, add the scientist, mangroves build their own environments.
Mangrove ecosystems are often the object of conservation programs, including national biodiversity action plans, because of their uniqueness and the protection they provide against erosion.
Scientists claim that the unique ecosystem found in the intricate mesh of mangrove roots offers a quiet marine region for young organisms. In areas where roots are permanently submerged, the organisms they host include algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges, and bryozoans, which all require a hard surface for anchoring while they filter feed. Shrimps and mud lobsters reportedly use the muddy bottoms as their home.