NGO urges government to revert AUU fishponds back to mangroves

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NGO urges government to revert AUU fishponds back to mangroves

Wetlands International Philippines calls on the Philippine government to fast-track the reversion of abandoned, undeveloped, and underutilized (AUU) fishponds back to mangroves.

The NGO conducted a 2-day activity in Bataan that included orientation of government workers and communities on wetlands protection, inspecting wetlands in the province particularly in the towns of Balanga, Abucay and Orion, and a media workshop for wetlands conservation reporting.

During a discussion with LGU representatives and community members, the environmental group called on the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to cancel and transfer all fishpond lease agreements for abandoned, undeveloped, and underutilized ponds back to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources originally had jurisdiction over many of the mangrove areas that were lent to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources under the Department of Agriculture (DA – BFAR) for aquaculture production. However, many of those fishponds have been idle or largely underutilized for over 5 years,” said Dr. Annadel Cabanban, Country Manager of Wetlands International Philippines.

“Under the Philippine Fisheries Code, as amended, the Bureau is required to return the lease agreements for aquaculture areas of unutilized fishponds back to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, so that the areas can be reverted to their original mangrove state or functions,” she added.

Section 49 of Republic Act No. 8550 gives the DENR, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, local government units, other concerned agencies, and FARMCs to identify AUU fishponds covered by FLAs to be reverted to their original mangrove state or functions. Meanwhile, Section 99 of RA 10654 likewise prohibits any person from converting mangroves into fishponds or for any other purpose. “We are already in a race against climate change. If we lose any more mangroves, the more vulnerable our country will be to coastal flooding, erosion, and storm surges,” said Cabanban.

Cabanban added that a new threat to mangrove restoration in the country is the new proposal of the DA-BFAR to use AUU ponds as salt farms. “Mangroves need brackish water and can hardly survive or grow in conditions that are too high in salinity. So, salt farming and mangrove survival are unlikely to co-exist. Some studies say that mangrove restoration can still happen in former salt bed areas, but it is costly and tedious. It will only allow species that can tolerate high salinity. It will not be reverted back to a multispecies mangrove area. We thus urge the DA-BFAR to thoroughly reconsider and revise its draft FAO 197-2 as it may exacerbate the further degradation of mangroves,” said Cabanban.

According to Cabanban, excessive water salinity can stunt the mangrove’s growth, reduce biomass, and impair photosynthesis. It can also interfere with the way the mangrove’s roots absorb water and nutrition from the ground, which makes it difficult for the mangroves to survive. The Wetlands International Philippines joined the weeklong Ibong Dayo Festival of Balanga City.

The post NGO urges government to revert AUU fishponds back to mangroves appeared first on 1Bataan.

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