MANILA, Philippines—Environmental groups and concerned individuals have criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for planting the wrong species of mangroves in Bohol. This recent incident has once again raised concerns about the DENR’s approach to mangrove conservation and restoration.
On May 25, DENR-CENRO Kabankalan City conducted a mangrove planting activity in Brgy. Bocana, Ilog, where volunteers planted over 5,000 mangrove propagules of the bakuan species. The activity was a collaborative effort involving the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Philippine Army, and the San Miguel Group Corporation (SMC) Program Philippines Power Foundation, Inc.
However, mangrove botanist Genea Cortez pointed out that the DENR’s choice of planting the Rhizophora species in the wetland area would disturb the ecosystem. Mangroves consist of different salt-tolerant plant groups that have specific locations within mangrove zonations, such as the landward zone, midzone, and seaward zone. Each species has its preference based on various factors. Cortez explained that planting bakauan in the seaward zone would not survive due to barnacle infestations. The presence of bakauan could also lead to survival competition among other species like Avicennia or bungalon.
Mangrove Matters PH founder Matthew Tabilog emphasized that the correct species, bungalon or pagatpat mangroves, should have been planted in the seaward zones captured in the DENR’s post. He also recommended planting seedlings that are at least one meter tall as they have developed roots and can withstand the coastal environment’s harsh conditions.
This incident in Bohol is not an isolated case. In 2020, the organization Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) raised concerns about a similar mangrove planting activity conducted by SMC in Bulacan. AGHAM flagged the use of the wrong species for the site and the destruction of mangrove pneumatophores during planting. Despite AGHAM’s notification to the DENR in 2021, no response or action has been taken regarding these issues.
Environmental groups stress the importance of proper mangrove planting practices for the preservation of trees and forests nationwide, especially in the face of the worsening climate crisis. They also call on the DENR and SMC to halt reclamation projects that pose a threat to the remaining mangroves in Manila Bay.
The groups express concerns that the mangroves planted by SMC may not survive due to rising sea levels, strong storm surges, and warming oceans. They urge the DENR to cancel the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for SMC’s Aerotropolis project in Bulacan, which has already caused destruction to the mangroves in Manila Bay.
It is crucial for the DENR to consult with experts and adopt proper mangrove planting techniques. Additionally, SMC should cease constructing reclamation projects that harm the remaining mangroves and displace coastal communities in Manila Bay.
The Inquirer has reached out to both the DENR and SMC for their reactions but has not received responses at the time of writing.
In conclusion, the improper planting of mangroves in Bohol and previous incidents in Bulacan highlight the need for better adherence to mangrove zonation and species selection. The preservation of mangroves is vital for ecological balance and resilience in the face of climate change. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, environmental experts, and community stakeholders are necessary to ensure the proper restoration and protection of mangrove ecosystems throughout the Philippines.