Under the intense heat of the morning sun, 16 public high school students from Pamontolon National High School along with local officials waded in the soft, muddy earth in the Philippine village of Poblacion to plant 10,000 mangrove seedlings. The students volunteered for this task although they still had to walk back several kilometers to attend afternoon classes.
They are afraid of impending disasters that can hit their community like in Leyte, Zamboanga, and Bohol when the mangroves are cleared,” said Nicky Arnaiz, teacher-in-charge. “The students told me that even if it was hot, they were willing to sacrifice so that they can plant more trees. They said many mangroves were being cut to make charcoal and they want to help return the natural growth of the mangroves.””
Lessons from Typhoon Yolanda
The desolation caused by typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, in Central Philippines served as a wake-up call to coastal communities in Taytay, Palawan, to intensify their efforts to protect remaining mangrove forests in the municipality.
Barangay Poblacion officer Nida Miguel confirmed that the local government initiated this activity. “We saw this need after typhoon Yolanda. Those towns without mangroves experienced much devastation,” she said.
Mangroves and beach forests can serve as buffer against strong winds, flooding, storm surges, and tsunamis. They also serve as nursing grounds for many species, support livelihood fishery and aquaculture, act as carbon sinks, and serve as recreational areas.
Re-commitment to protect the mangroves
Cutting of mature mangrove trees to sell firewood and charcoal is a common source of income in Taytay. Nevertheless, the local community is slowly recognizing the benefits of mangroves as well as the dangers of having fewer beach forests.
Since June 2013, the local government, schools, and people’s organizations have been working together to plant seedlings in 25 hectares in three barangays or villages, Poblacion, Calawag, and Pamantolon, with the support of ADB’s Coral Triangle Initiative-Southeast Asia (CTI-SEA) project.
“As of May 2014, about 9 hectares of denuded areas have been replanted with around 90,000 seedlings of the Rhizophora species,” said Roger Savella, CTI-SEA’s Key Biodiversity Area coordinator for Palawan. “The estimated survival rate of the seedlings is from 70% to 90%.”
Success of the project would largely depend on the community’s commitment and the municipality’s vigilance.
“There is a need for strict reinforcement of rules and rigorous monitoring on replanted areas,” said Pamantolon Barangay Captain Edilberto Felizarte.
Many residents, in fact, still persist in making charcoal from mangroves and extracting its bark. Another challenge is ensuring that families living nearby replanted areas will do their share by preventing their goats from feeding on the seedlings.
The eagerness of the youth to be environmental advocates coupled with the local government’s renewed political will is expected to energize the drive for mangrove preservation and rehabilitation in the region.
In June 2014, four national high schools in the villages of Busy Bees, Canique, Pamantolon, and Poblacion will start a school-led mangrove reforestation project as part of the regional celebration of Coral Triangle Day.
“Young people like me can help save nature by joining activities for the environment, such as those lead by the Barangay Council,” said Sheena Bagona, a student from Pamantolon National High School.
Bagona is one of the students that proposed for the barangay-wide mangrove reforestation project in February during the Bayani ng Kalikasan or Heroes of the Environment Youth Camp, which trained youth in Taytay on climate change adaptation and coastal resource management.
Since 2013, CTI-SEA has been working with the municipal government to increase Taytay’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. Mangrove reforestation is one of the five priority strategies under the Climate Change Adaptation Plan of Taytay. The others are pilot-testing of salt-tolerant rice varieties, pilot abalone cage culture and seaweed farming, training on early warning and disaster response and preparedness, and health management and sanitation monitoring.
About ADB’s Coral Triangle Initiative-Southeast Asia
Through this project, ADB is supporting communities in the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion – including Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia – in protecting their coastal and marine ecosystems and developing increased resilience to natural and human-induced hazards.
The mangrove reforestation initiative is one of the five priority strategies in Taytay’s climate change adaptation plan. Others are pilot-testing of salt-tolerant rice varieties, pilot abalone cage culture, training on early warning and disaster response and preparedness, and health management and sanitation monitoring.
The project, which will run from 2012 to 2016, is designed to enable the governments of the three countries to implement priority activities across a range of areas. The project in Taytay builds on the work of WWF-Philippines, which facilitated climate change adaptation planning in the municipality with funding from the Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).