Will ‘bakhaw’ project spoil Bantayan seagrass beds?

By: Eileen G. Mangubat October 02,2015 - 01:14 AM

A dialog is set on Tuesday in Bantayan island, north Cebu to thresh out complaints about the “inappropriate planting” of  bakhaw mangroves in seagrass areas.

While mangroves are known as the “rainforest of the sea,”  some residents, including the Bantayan chamber of commerce and industry, are alarmed that the ongoing project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is damaging the habitat of “danggit,” seashells and crabs.

“There are better places to plant in Bantayan, like mangrove stands destroyed during typhoon Yolanda, but this is not happening,” said Roberto Ybañez, a Bantayan resident who is active in developing the town’s marine sanctuaries and zoning of municipal waters.

The shade provided by fully-grown mangroves would block the sunlight in seagrass beds, disrupting the ecosystem, he explained. Even the fallen leaves and detritus of bakhaw would affect the presence of plankton on which “danggit” or rabbit fish feed.

Bantayan island is well known as Cebu’s main source of “danggit”  and blue shell crabs. The crabs are   found in the sandy bottom of coastal areas.

While mangroves are important as fish nurseries and a natural barrier against storm surges, Ybañez said  “There is no scientific basis  being followed here for replacing a rich ecosystem with bakhaw.”

Ybañez is one of the speakers for the dialog set by the DENR-7 Director Isabelo Montejo on Oct. 6.

The DENR said the dialog aims “to clear up or explain the results of the Monitoring and Evaluation of the Mangrove and Beach Forest Development Project in Bantayan Island.”

He received the resolution of the Bantayan island chapter of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry which urged  DENR-7 “to halt further planting” in seagrass areas of Bantayan, in particular barangay Luyong Baybay in Doong islet, and to remove “bakhaw seedlings inappropriately planted”… so that the natural ecosystem may be restored.

The DENR-7 contracted local residents for the project and started planting mangrove propagules in  the barangay as early as June 2015.

As of early September, 12 hectares were planted along seagrass coastal areas.  Another three hectares will be planted by November to complete a 15-hectare “quota” of the DENR, said the chamber.

In the islet’s second barangay of Doong, the same activity is planned for 15 hectares under phase 2.

The DENR said it envisions a “safer and resilient community on the impacts of climate change” with the planting of mangroves.

But the Bantayan business chamber led by chairman Arthur Despi, in a resolution, said the activity in natural seagrass beds “has already brought in certain consequences that are bound to alter the marine and coastal ecosystem of the islet of Doong. Without a doubt, the residents will, or, are suffering from the effects of this project.”

Bantayan town’s economy is based on fisheries.  In Doong islet, coastal residents also rely on gleaning shells (panginhas) during low tide.

Seagrass beds are a habitat and breeding ground for fish and mollusks. It also serves as buffer from the waves and improves water quality.

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