• Conservation project launched in Liguasan Marsh

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    Partnership with MILF in conflict-ridden area to preserve marshland, provide jobs

    A 1,000-hectare parcel in the conflict-ridden Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao will be planted with bamboo under a one-of-a-kind partnership among the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the military, and the provincial and local governments in Maguindanao, the director of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) said.

    ERDB Director Dr. Henry A. Adornado said that the main component of the project would be the planting of bamboo in the marshland through the ERDB and the National Greening Program (NGP). The project is part of a larger Sustainable Integrated Area Development (SIAD) project in Liguasan Marsh launched recently by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez.

    “The development of 1,000 hectares in Radjah Buayan town is part of the Department’s endeavor to develop one million hectares of bamboo nationwide,” Adornado said.

    SIAD  will begin with the establishment of a one-hectare nursery for bamboo.

    “Bamboo was chosen because of its economic, ecological, and environmental contributions and its potential to provide sustainable benefit to the farmers,” said Adornado.

    The DENR will provide P21 million to the municipal government of Rajah Buayan for site preparation, planting materials production, plantation establishment, and maintenance and protection of a 1,000-hectare bamboo plantation over the next three years.

    “It is envisioned that with SIAD, Radjah Buayan will become a bamboo capital of the Philippines, reducing the municipality’s poverty level, which is currently at 35 percent,” a statement from the ERDB said.

    Important ecosystems

    Marshlands are unique ecosystems that are engulfed in water permanently or seasonally, hosting aquatic plants endemic to flooded land.

    Marshlands have distinct environmental roles. These are useful in purifying water, controlling floods, stabilizing shorelines, serving as carbon sinks, and serving as home to varied plants and animals, the ERDB explained.

    Wetlands are threatened by pollution, agricultural runoff, and non-native species, as well as being sensitive to erosion, drought, and severe storms. Wetlands are believed to be the most threatened of all ecosystem types.

    Liguasan Marsh, which straddles the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, is one of the major marshlands in the Philippines, covering 220,000 hectares of which 30,000 hectares are designated as a game refuge and bird sanctuary. The marshland is also thought to hold large reserves of natural gas.

    The Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands Inc. (SCPW) has led the push for a “National Wetlands Policy.” The Philippine Biodiversity Priority Setting has identified more than 30 inland wetlands as priority sites for conservation. Although there are many laws and action plans that seek to conserve these, there is no overall national policy on wetlands in the Philippines.

    “There are 316 fish species (in these wetlands) of which 121 are endemic and 76 are threatened. (Also found are) numerous species of waterbirds, aquatic plants and a majority of amphibians and semi-aquatic species such as the highly endangered Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis),” SCPW said.

    Wetlands provide products and services to more than 13 million people residing around lake basins. Lakes are important to tourism, biodiversity, food (the Sinarapan, world’s smallest commercial fish is found in Lake Buhi), and as wintering area for a large number of tufted duck species.

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