2021, another decade arises – said to be the start of another journey of ecosystems restoration. It is a timely start for wetlands which are sometimes perceived as wasteland. Known as one of most productive habitats on earth which provide various direct and indirect benefits critical for human survival, wetlands remain largely unappreciated to the point of being regarded as wastelands.
The fifth episode of PA Talk in anticipation of the World Wetlands day on February 2, 2021 carried the theme “Wetlands or wasteland, which way to go?” aired on 26 January 2021 live via Facebook. This episode underscored the importance of wetlands and the challenges they confront. Policy gaps and the various programs and activities to further the conservation and protection of wetlands were tackled.
The PA Talk highlighted two of our unique wetland protected areas—the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) in Luzon which is home to the endemic and only fresh water Sardinella species in the world, and the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS) in Mindanao which holds the remaining intact peat swamp forest in the country. The Regional Executive Directors (RED) of DENR CALABARZON & CARAGA Regions, Protected Area Superintendent (PASus), and representatives from our partner organizations/institutions such as the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc. and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute served as resource persons.
The REDs of DENR CALABARZON & CARAGA, through an Audio Visual Presentation started off the discussion by providing brief introduction of the two (2) featured protected areas, respectively.
Resource persons from the TVPL discussed the impacts of the various challenges they are facing such as the Taal Volcano eruption, the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and the transmission of the African Swine Fever which greatly affected the livelihood of the communities living within the protected area. PENRO/PASu Noel Recillo of PENRO Batangas called for continued support and collaboration in the implementation of various guidelines which include the closed season for the catching of the tawilis, and the declaration of the whole volcano island as no human settlement land.
Resource persons from AMWS imparted the uniqueness of the species thriving in the marsh such as the Crocodylus porosus and the Philippine wild ducks (Anas luzonica) which are Philippine endemics, and trees like Libas (Spondias pinnata) and Katmon (Dillenia philippinensis) which also provide livelihood to the IP communities. Ms. Emmilie Ibonia, PASu of AMWS and Deputy Speaker Legarda had a good exchange about peatlands. Based on information/studies, peatlands play a big role in carbon sequestration and are regarded as carbon sink, hence they help combat the negative impacts of climate change. Peatlands also serve the function of flood control.
Mr. Celestino B. Ulep who’s an expert in various environmental fields and currently the President of the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands shared and explained that wetlands are the severely threatened ecosystems because of various anthropogenic activities. Hence, lakes, streams as well as species found therein are affected by significant negative impacts. Therefore, various conservation and management strategies should be strengthened. Among the strategies highlighted are the formulation of a recovery plan that includes captive breeding and stock enhancement of certain threatened species, information and education campaign to increase community awareness, and eradication of invasive alien species. He emphasized further the need to prioritize and collaborate with concerned agencies such as LLDA, BMB, ERDB, NFRDI and the academic institutions (MSI, MSU, among others) for cooperation and collaboration to address these concerns.
Dr. Maria Theresa M. Mutia, Chief Science Research Specialist of National Fisheries Research and Development Institute – Freshwater Fisheries Research and Development Center (NFRDI-FFRDC) shared the conservation efforts for the endangered tawilis found only in Taal. She recalled that for the past 20 years they have recorded a decline of tawilis production due mainly to unsustainable fishing practices. She emphasized that even before the declaration of the tawilis as endangered species by the IUCN in 2018, the NFRDI, BFAR, the Protected Area Management Board and the Protected Area Management Office of TVPL have already formulated local policies that protects the said species such as the establishment of tawilis reserve area, closed season for spawning, and implementation of the right mesh size for fishing. She further underscored that the cooperation of all stakeholders is very crucial for continued awareness campaign/advocacy for the increase of tawilis population and the conservation of this species.
Deputy Speaker and Antique Lone District Representative Loren Legarda emphasized the need to embrace the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals, especially with the declaration of 2021-2030 as decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Assistant Director and Officer-In-Charge Office of the Director of BMB, Amelita DJ. Ortiz emphasized and shared that a national policy on the wetland conservation is on the pipeline with a Bill authored by the Hon. Mujiv S. Hataman of Basilan and Hon. Amihilda J. Sangcopan of Anak Mindanao Party List. The National wetland policy seeks to consolidate the various wetland-related provisions dispersed in various laws.
Atty. Ipat Luna hopes that the law and various plans being implemented by the different agencies of the government as well as by NGOs will further strengthen the conservation of the remaining wetlands especially in this decade of ecosystem restoration.
PA Talk #ProtectedAreasForAProtectedFuture is an online series which started last June 2020 in celebration of the 2nd year of the passage of the ENIPAS Law. It aims to promote public participation/involvement and support in the management and protection of protected areas by highlighting the biological, physical and cultural features of protected areas and by showcasing the various facets of protected area management. Through this activity, we hope to gain the support of stakeholders and the public in general in the conservation and protection of the country’s wetland areas, particularly those established as protected areas under the National Protected Areas System.