Fast-growing marine plant seen as a tool against climate effects and poverty
THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is seeking areas where local production of seaweed can either be started or increased, both as a livelihood measure for coastal communities and as an effective measure against the impacts of climate change.
Research in recent years has found that many varieties of seaweed, including types that are commercially farmed in the Philippines and other countries, have unique characteristics that give them carbon sequestration abilities.
DENR Secretary Gina Lopez told reporters and seaweed farming stakeholders in a roundtable discussion last week at the training center of the Biodiversity Management Bureau in Quezon City that the DENR has started identifying potential sites for seaweed farming in the country, with the help of other government agencies and local residents.
Lopez said sites being assessed include Calatagan, Batangas; Tambuyong, Quezon; Badian, Cebu; and Caluya Island in Antique, which is near Semirara Island, site of a coal mine and power plant that has been the subject of complaints from seaweed farmers in the area, and was described by Lopez herself shortly after her appointment in June as “a nightmare” that “made the seaweed farmers suffer.”
A study by researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and Deakin University and published in the prestigious journal Ecology in November 2015 confirmed the carbon capture ability of seaweed, which is due to the structure of the plant’s cell walls. The researchers concluded that seaweed is much more effective than land-based plants, and could serve an important role as a “carbon storage system.”
Lopez said the government’s program would help farmers with both propagation of their farms and with marketing of their products.
“The seaweed revenues should affect more than one person while developing an area,” Lopez said. “We can get the country out of poverty through this project.”
The DENR chief noted the strong market potential of seaweed due to its fast-growing characteristics and high market price, making it an important economic activity to alleviate poverty in the rural areas.
Lopez did not disclose the financial details of the program, but did say that one proposal is to tap the Expanded National Greening Program and the People’s Survival Fund.
Among those who attended the meeting were representatives from the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines; the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute; seaweed farmers from Tambuyog, Quezon, Badian, Cebu, and Negros Oriental; Mabunao Agricultural Forest Livelihood Improvement Program, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia, and the Department of Agriculture.