‘Bakhaw’ deprives seagrass fauna of their habitat

By Marian Z. Codilla |October 10,2015 - 03:07 AM

THE Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) – Bantayan chapter is not against planting of mangroves, but is against planting of bakhaw (Rhizophora species) on seagrass areas.

Robert Ybañez, who represented the chamber in a dialogue with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bantayan last Tuesday, said the government’s mangrove reforestation project in Bantayan has affected fishermen who rely on shell gleaning in the seagrasses. It has also obstructed the navigation lanes of the fishing boats.

The chamber’s call for DENR to stop planting mangroves on seagrass beds is not new.

In 2003, the Philippine Association of Marine Science also called on the DENR to stop planting on seagrass beds.  This was repeated in 2005 and 2007.

Mangrove scientist Dr. Jurgenne Primavera said bakhaw is not suitable for the seafront because its aboveground prop roots cannot withstand strong waves and winds. What should be planted along the seafront are the piapi and pagatpat mangroves.

“Even when successful, bakhaw plantings on seagrass beds are one ecosystem’s gain and another’s loss. Conversion to mangrove forests will deprive mudflats and seagrass fauna of their habitat,” she wrote in the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group newsletter. Seagrass animals include  danggit fish, shellfish and crabs.

DENR Regional Executive director Isabelo Montejo admitted in the Bantayan forum that they  planted mangroves in areas with sparse seagrass.

Of the 429-hectare mangrove plantation in barangays Luyong-Baybay, Doong, Sulangan and Obo-ob located on the west side of Bantayan facing Negros, he said 271 hectares have sparse to partial seagrass cover. Only 12.6 hectares have “good to excellent” seagrass beds, a DENR monitoring report showed.

“It is true that some seagrass areas were planted with mangroves but not all areas were seagrass beds. If the seagrass is sparse, we can establish mangroves and create a cluster,” Montejo said.

“We are more into establishment of mangroves to help  buffer a storm surge. But in areas where seagrass is premier, that should not be converted into a mangrove area. Siguro nasipyat lang gyud to (Maybe it was just a mistake),” he added.

He was referring to the chamber’s complaint about the planting of bakhaw in 12 hectares of seagrass beds in barangay Luyong Baybay in Bantayan.

The national government allotted P1 billion, including P89 million for northern Cebu towns, for massive mangrove reforestation in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, which caused storm surges that wiped out coastal communities in 2013.

Montejo said they conducted technical validation before starting  the project and made sure a DENR extension worker was looking into how the people’s organization executed it.

Residents are paid  P2 for every propagule planted.

Ybañez said planting mangroves in seagrass beds violates  DENR’s own technical guidelines.

“Seagrasses may be sparse in these areas but these are seagrass areas,” he said.

“Panghambog ra ni nila kay (They just want to boast to) DENR Secretary (Ramon) Paje that they can meet the target of 5,000 hectares of coastal areas with mangroves. Now that their time is almost up, they just plant it anywhere to meet their target at the expense of the fisher folk,” Ybañez added.

The Cebu Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Office (PENRO), through coastal resource management officer William Villaver, recommended during the dialogue to remove the mangroves on seagrasses.

Montejo said he was still waiting for the complete report by Emma Melana, regional director of the National Greening Program, before he would make recommendations about the project.

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