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Mirant’s P5-M mangrove nursery in Guimaras

January 9, 2007

By Bassinette Noderama
The Guardian Iloilo
2007-01-09

TO help in the rehabilitation and restoration program of mangroves affected by the oil spill in Guimaras, Mirant Philippines Foundation Inc. (MPFI) donated P5 million for a 5,000-square meter nursery (with 200,000 seedlings) at Brgy. Tando, Nueva Valencia.

The launching ceremony was led by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Angelo Reyes and MPFI executive director Robert Calingo. Before the ceremony, there was a comprehensive mangrove rehabilitation planning workshop at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center.

The workshop tackled the extent of damage. It was said that 438 out of 957.5 hectares of mangroves in Guimaras were affected by the oil spill. In the neighboring province of Iloilo, 7.3 hectares were affected in the town of Concepcion and 18.6 hectares in Ajuy.

“Mangroves are vital to the food chain of marine environment because plankton, sea grass, and shellfish are dependent on it. The oil spill also saw the importance of mangroves. You know what, it is a good protection from oil spill,” DENR Regional Director Julian Amador said.

The nursery in Tando is the first of three central nurseries to be set up. The other central nurseries will be in the town of Sibunag and in the island of Panobolon. Seven subsidiary nurseries will also be put up.

It may be recalled that last year, a 26-hectare mangrove plantation was launched in Panobolon, an island barangay in Nueva Valencia. The memorandum of agreement (MOA) to implement the project was signed by Guimaras Governor Rahman Nava and Timoteo Olarte, head of the DBP Area Management Office in the Visayas.

That plantation was destroyed by the August 11 oil spill that is considered as the worst environmental disaster to hit the country.

My late mother’s relatives have fishponds in Nueva Valencia. Her ancestors who originally had fishponds in Dumangas passed on their interests to descendants. Fishponds and mangrove forests are parts of my life.

Mangrove forests shelter fish and other aquatic organisms like shells and crustaceans. They are good spawning grounds. Thickets of the aquatic trees provide protection from strong winds and wave action.

As a child, whenever I would tag along to the fishponds, I would always play among the aerial roots of mangrove trees. They are good picnic grounds if one knows how to deal with them.

Mangroves produce numerous aerial stilts or prop roots. The roots extend out from the main trunk into the water, forming dense thickets. These aquatic trees have tough, leathery leaves. There are large flowers. As the fruit ripens, a sharp root grows from it. When the fruit falls, the root is pushed into the mud. It becomes a new plant.

Aside from sheltering fish and other aquatic organisms, mangroves are also good sources of firewood and charcoal. However, cutting was restricted to branches only. The main trunk was never touched. We were careful in conserving the very useful trees.

Seeing the devastation in what had been developed and taken cared of by our ancestors was unimaginable. What used to be paradise was turned into purgatory. Scientists said that the full effect of the oil spill will be known after several years.

We’re very thankful to the people who help us start again. The mangrove nursery is a good start. It is said that a hectare of the aquatic trees can increase fish production by at least one ton.

Fisherfolk have returned to their craft. The sight of growing mangrove trees is an inspiration that life goes on no matter what happens.

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