SUBIC BAY FREEPORT - The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has successfully harnessed the support of the private sector in implementing a project to restore mangrove forests here and increase public awareness on the importance of mangrove ecosystems.
According to SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia, five business locators here and two schools from as far as Manila and La Union, have already participated in the agency’s mangrove restoration program since it was launched by the SBMA Ecology Center early this year.
The program has resulted in the planting of about 300 mangrove propagules, as well as a total of 130 nipa seedlings, with survival rates averaging at 70 percent in most planting areas in the Subic Bay Freeport.
Garcia said the program has gained much support from local stakeholders and visitors because the reforestation project is complemented by an Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaignt to help increase public appreciation of mangroves and their role in biodiversity.
“Once people learn that mangroves are not just putrid swampy areas, but in fact serve as home and breeding places for a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp and shells, they volunteer their help in planting and cleaning the mangrove areas here,” Garcia said.
“And because of the importance of mangroves not only in food production, but also in coastal protection and tourism, we hope to engage more and more companies and private groups in keeping the mangroves in Subic healthy and well,” the SBMA official added.
Since February this year, the SBMA Ecology Center has undertaken several mangrove planting, cleanups, IEC tours, and species identification projects in partnership with companies and schools," said Rhea Jane Mallari, a senior forest management specialist of the SBMA Ecology Center.
These include the International School of Manila, which planted “busain” and “piapi” species of mangrove; Subic Golf, which planted nipa seedlings for erosion
control; Aikon Subic and Orica, which both undertook planting and IEC activities; Petron Corporation and Hitachi Mechatronics, both for planting and cleanup; and Don Mariano Marcos State University in La Union, which planted mangrove and helped in species identification and phenology.
The participants also donated tools and equipment, and some seed bags used in the planting activities.
Mallari said that most of the trees planted by the program participants had survived, although the Ecology Center and its partners “are still in the process of learning the best practices in mangrove restoration”.
“There is so much to be done, and in this regard we are seeking more partners and supporters to help us establish and operate a mangrove nursery,” Malari said.
Lilia Alcazar, chief of the SBMA Ecology Center’s Protected Area Division, said the nursery project is important because nursery-raised mangrove seedlings have better-established root systems, and hence, higher survival rates.
The Center is also hoping for assistance in patrolling the mangrove areas here to discourage encroachment and indiscriminate harvesting of mangrove forest products.
Alcazar added that aside from raising public awareness on the importance of mangrove ecosystems, the Center’s Mangrove IEC and Restoration Program seeks to encourage stakeholders in joining the conduct of mangrove management strategies, the protection and maintenance of the integrity of mangrove forests, and the
conduct of research and ecologically-sound activities in mangrove areas at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. (30)
SBMA senior forest management specialist Rhea Jane Mallari (left) leads the Ecology Center mangrove restoration team in harvesting wildlings for transplanting at the Binictican-Malawaan mangrove forest in the Subic Bay Freeport.