MANILA, Philippines – Mangrove deforestation is a big problem in many villages in Taytay, Palawan, where residents wantonly use mangroves as firewood and furniture material.
But where the local government was ill-equipped to deal with the issue, the Coastal and Marine Resources Management in the Coral Triangle-Southeast Asia (CTI-SEA) had an answer: tap into the energy of the youth by involving them in the protection and conservation of mangroves, seagrass, coral reefs, and other natural resources.
Under a program called Bayani ng Kalikasan (Heroes for the Environment), CTI-SEA has helped jumpstart school-led environmental projects, the Central Taytay National High School being one of its beneficiaries.
Livirus Tabi, now a freshman at Western Philippines University, was one of the high school students who worked on the school’s mangrove rehabilitation project together with classmates and teachers. For them, Science and Environment is never just a school subject.
“Mangroves are not just trees, they can protect communities from tsunamis or storm surges,” he said.
Strong school partnership as key to success
Aside from being buffer zones and local food sources, mangrove forests are also important carbon sinks. They help reduce climate change effects by storing large quantities of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Mangroves and coastal wetlands also store up carbon two to four times greater than tropical forests.
Lourdes Margarita Caballero, CTI-SEA Communications and Public Awareness Specialist, believes that tapping schools as institutional partners is key to sustaining gains in climate change adaptation.
True enough, Central Taytay National High School’s 8,000 mangroves had an above-80 per cent survival rate. Their two adjacent mangrove reforestation sites covered almost 1.5 hectares in Sitio Mayruba.
Rising to the challenge of environmental protection in Taytay
Within only six months since the start of the reforestation project in August 2014, mangrove destruction in Sitio Mayruba had abated. Support for the planting activity eventually snowballed, with policemen, local employees, and civic groups volunteering their support.
The school has even extended its efforts from the coasts to the mountains. In partnership with the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office, they have planted seedlings in a forest area part of the Tatay watershed.
Aside from supporting school environmental projects, CTI-SEA works closely with the local government to provide training and more sustainable and environment-friendly income sources for the people. In exchange for giving up mangrove cutting, CTI-SEA has helped former mangrove cutters set up seaweed farms and giant ipil-ipil plantations.
CTI-SEA is a regional project funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility. It aims for climate resilience and sustainable resource management in the coastal communities of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
This article was written by Dana Salonoy and was first published in the Philippine Star on 2 November 2015