The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), in a recent report, has urged wealthy nations to make “essential payments” to developing countries where 90 percent of the world’s mangrove forests are found. Why? Because these mangrove forests can deter the further degradation of the world’s critical ecosystem. Mangroves absorb much more carbon pollutants than terrestrial forests.
The UNEP report may yet drastically alter the investment policies and biases of wealthy countries vis-a-vis the third world. Admittedly, developed countries are largely responsible for the world’s climate change crisis. It urges wealthy and developing countries to cooperatively work together to protect and expand the world’s remaining mangrove forests, instead of just concentration on their REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) strategies.
This UN report underscores the value of mangroves in the Philippines, such as the 250-hectare plantations in Kalibo, Aklan and the 2,800-hectare mangrove forests in Albay. The Kalibo project was initiated in 1989 by former Kalibo mayor and Aklan congressman Allen Salas Quimpo, now a university president. The project is now under the care of the Kalibo Save the Mangroves Association (KASAMA), and serves as Aklan’s most effective safeguard against environmental degradation, typhoons and tsunamis by creating a natural barrier and providing a reservoir for biodiversity.
The impressive 2,800-hectare Albay mangrove forests was expanded to its present size from its original 700-hectare area in 2009. by former Albay Governor, now Congressman Joey Salceda. The mangrove forest helped earned Albay its recent designation by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve where sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, and rational use of natural resources are reconciled.
In Aklan, the Kalibo mangrove plantation substantially helps regenerate marine life, and serves as a major source of income for local farmers and fishermen with their daily catch of fish, crabs and shells. It is also a big attraction for tourists flocking to nearby world-famous Boracay Island Paradise. Its further expansion, financed by international and national organizations and business firms also generates employment opportunities for local rural folks.
The Kalibo project has received several recognitions and awards, including a 2005 United Nations commendation.
Environmentalists and scientific researchers from all over the world frequently visit it and appreciate how it has contributed to the resurgence of Kalibo’s rich biodiversity. Aklan’s youth volunteers keep their mangrove plantation in tip-top shape. (Johnny Dayang)