Gov’t action urged on abandoned fishponds
Mangrove conservationists have urged government agencies to speed up the reversion of abandoned and underutilized fishponds to mangrove areas as part of measures to cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
Representatives from the academe, nongovernment organizations and local government units called for the approval of a joint administrative order on the cancellation of agreements for abandoned, undeveloped and underutilized fishponds and their reversion to mangrove areas.
They adopted a petition seeking fast action from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform and Department of the Interior and Local Government during a three-day national conference on mangroves, which ended here on Friday.
Organized by the Zoological Society of London, the conference drew some 200 participants who discussed experiences in community-based mangrove rehabilitation projects and issues.
Mangroves provide coastal communities with marine products and serve as nurseries for fish, shellfish and wildlife habitats. These also serve as a buffer and protection for typhoons and floods, according to scientists.
While efforts to reverse the decline of mangrove areas in the country have improved, there was still a need to fasttrack the rehabilitation of mangroves, especially in abandoned or unutilized fishponds covered by fishpond lease agreement (FLAs), said Jurgenne Primavera, a mangrove specialist.
An FLA allows a fishpond applicant to lease public land to develop for fishpond purposes for 25 years. It is renewable for another 25 years.
In Western Visayas, which has the most number of FLAs, the reversion of abandoned and underutilized mangrove areas has been very slow, according to a research conducted by the Division of Social Science of the University of the Philippines-Visayas.
This was due to policy and implementation weaknesses, it said.
Western Visayas has 1,478 FLAs covering 14,150 hectares out of the total 4,482 FLAs covering 59,129 ha in the country.
The research, conducted by Alice Joan Ferrer, Jinky Hopanda, Michael Orquejo, Alan Dino Moscoso and Resurreccion Sadaba, showed an urgent need for fishpond reversion to mangrove forest to check deforestation and degradation.
It will also economically benefit more members of the community through the utilization of mangrove resources, it said.
According to Primavera, the country has around 200,000 ha of mangroves and 232,000 ha of fishponds. She described the figures as alarming because the ideal ratio should be 4:1 in favor of mangrove forests.
The conference participants pushed for the incorporation of courses on mangroves in academic curriculums and the adoption of instructional mangrove modules to educate students on the importance of mangroves in the ecosystem.
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