A MANGROVE expert is pushing for a scientific approach in preserving the mangroves along certain sections of the Iloilo River Esplanade project.
Prof. Rex Sadaba of the University of the Philippines-Visayas said the species and characteristics of mangroves should be considered before planting.
“The scientific study should be the basis of management,” Sadaba said.
The Esplanade project has been hounded with controversy after centuries-old mangroves died as a result of its beautification campaign.
In his presentation during an inter-agency coordination meeting held at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office on April 3, 2018, Sadaba said the location and tidal elevations are the primary considerations when planting mangroves.
“There are species that prefer sandy, muddy, or rocky soil. There are also those that survive either in low salinity, medium salinity, or high salinity,” he added.
“Species diversity is increasing from the mouth of the river to the inner portion (in Sooc) which is attributed to salinity, that is, from high to low salinity areas. At the Esplanade, the dominant species is the bungalon or Avicennia marina. Everything should be based on studies,” he said.
Mangrove ecosystems are essential to ecological balance because they act as natural habitats for organisms, a breeding ground for certain marine species, efficient carbon sinks, and natural barriers or protection from storms.
While Sadaba said the coordination meeting is late as many mangroves have already died when the Esplanade was implemented, he lauded the stakeholders for successfully addressing the concerns.
“I agree it’s actually late in the game… But at least all the concerns that we raised, particularly on the mangroves. That is what we are saying that there should be a balance between development and environmental protection,” he said.
“Based on the presentations there is a big improvement at the Iloilo River so I am happy that the meeting turned out well,” he added.
Sadaba expressed optimism that the mangroves that died could still be replaced by replanting new species and through natural colonization process.
“Ano ubrahon mo kay napatay na sila? Tamnan mo liwat eh. Actually indi man gani kinahanglan magtanom gid kay ara pa na. Sa amo na nga area kun may buhi nga kahoy kag may bunga pa, pabay-an mo lang ang area, marecover pa na siya. There is no need for active planting because nature has a way of recovering itself. Give it time,” he said.
RETAIN THE MANGROVES
Meanwhile, DPWH-6 assistant regional director Al Fruto said mangroves that will be affected by some sections of the Esplanade, particularly Esplanade 6, will be retained.
Fruto said they will realign certain sections of the project to preserve mangroves along the river.
He estimated that around 10 kilometers of mangroves are covered by the Esplanade sections.
“We will have a transition. We will not be touching anymore the existing mangroves. But those that will be inevitably covered by the projects, we will ask for consideration,” he said.
DPWH said they will also complement the preservation program with the planting of mangroves scheduled in May in the areas that are still open.
Fruto also thanked partner agencies, the private sector and the academe for providing inputs during the coordination meeting.
“We will move forward and learn from these experiences so that similar projects that we will implement in the future are acceptable to all sectors,” he said.
He said the Esplanade project espouses the concept of pedestrianization of roads and interconnectivity initiatives.