Communities and diplomats join forces for climate change adaptation
Gov. Umali
Philippine Consular Corps adds support to mangrove rehabilitation

​Governor Alfonso V. Umali (shown in photo, in yellow shirt) led the launch of a mangrove rehabilitation project in Baco, Oriental Mindoro, jumpstarting the planting of at least 30,000 mangrove propagules as part of the province’s climate change adaptation efforts. The project is supported by  the Consular Corps of the Philippines and implemented in partnership with Conservation International.

The mangrove planting was carried out in Barangay Pulantubig (formerly known as Mayagao), Baco, Oriental Mindoro, and is the initial salvo of further mangrove rehabilitation efforts in the municipality. Baco is part of the Verde Island Passage, a globally-important marine biodiversity area and one of CI’s priority project sites.

“We are happy to support this endeavor as a continuing partnership with Conservation International,” assured Armenia Honorary Consul Jose Periquet, Jr., Dean of the Consular Corps. 

Like many coastal areas in the Philippines, Baco’s mangrove areas have suffered losses over the years, making the area more vulnerable to climate change impacts such as sea level rise and stronger, more frequent storms.

“Rehabilitating and expanding mangrove greenbelts are among the most cost-effective ways of enhancing a community’s capacity to adapt to climate change impacts. Mangrove belts protect communities from storm damages and help stabilize coastlines,” said Romeo Trono, Country Executive Director of Conservation International.

“We are bent on implementing an honest-to-goodness coastal resource management development program, dispensing with the idea that this is only for publicity,”  said Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso V. Umali.

“In fact,” he added, “the mangrove rehabilitation project was launched simultaneously with SICAD (Strategic Intervention and Community-focused Action towards Development)  in Pulantubig, Baco to pursue a holistic and integrated approach to alleviating poverty in the coastal communities with the end in view of capacitating them to become development partners in sustaining local environmental management efforts.”

The participants planted Rhizophora propagules, one of the mangrove varieties chosen as most appropriate to the area and most likely to thrive given the site’s conditions. The rehabilitation site is a sand bar and river delta formation, which serves as a barrier to the community against strong waves. In a tsunami event in 1994, the area helped shield the residents from devastation that caused flooding and beach erosion, and killed at least 41 people in the affected communities.

According to Conservation International, the combination of true mangrove and associated species that will be planted under this initiative will enhance the stability of coastal ecosystems in the area. It will provide the community with a more efficient means of protection from climatic factors and other natural events and likewise improve habitats that will serve as homes for fishes, crabs, clams and other provisioning functions of a healthy mangrove forest. 

part of the mangrove rehabilitation site in Baco, Oriental Mindoro

“Aside from enhanced coastal protection, this project is expected to provide additional benefits to fisherfok engaged in aquasilvi projects or crab culture,” said Marilyn Alcañices, head of the Fishery and Coastal Resources Management Division of Oriental Mindoro’s Provincial Agriculture Office (PAgO). “Rehabilitating mangrove areas will increase aquasilvi project sites and increase the population of crablets and  other marine finfish like milkfish, grouper that need mangrove areas as their nursery and feeding  grounds,” she explained.

Since last year, the 37-year old Consular Corps of the Philippines (CCP), composed of career and honorary consuls of foreign governments accredited to the Philippines, has included climate change and environmental concerns among its programs, following similar global thrusts of the World Federation of Consuls.

The CCP Environmental Concerns Committee, chaired by Sweden Honorary Consul General Carla Limcaoco, held a charity bike run in Makati City in order to raise funds to support  mangrove reforestation efforts.  She was assisted by her Co-Chair, El Salvador Honorary Consul Ma. Josefina Ortigas-Duarte, and project coordinators: Jordan Honorary Consul Michael Alexander Ang, Italy Consul Dr. Adriano Stefanutti, Guatemala Vice Consul/Corps Secretary Marc Thomas Ablaza, and many committee members.  They plan to hold a second charity bike run for environmental protection sometime this year.

The Bantay Dagat group of Baco will take on the task of monitoring and taking care of the planting site to ensure a high survival rate. As part of its climate change adaptation and coastal resources management efforts, the municipality is also in the process of establishing new marine protected areas.
Photos courtesy of Rhodora Emilia Ramiento of the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Agriculture Office, Fishery and Coastal Resources Management Division.