Nineteen personnel of the company planted at least 500 mangrove seedlings in Barangay Kiambing here on March 30.
They were joined by volunteers from Gensan Twinstar Jaycees, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources, Karancho, Kabalikat Dadiangas Maharlika Eagles Club, Environmental Protection and Conservation Center (ECPC), the vice governor’s office, officials and constituents of Kiambing, and the local government of Maitum.
“Mangrove forests protect our shores from soil erosion from the uplands and strong sea current,” Saluma Gampal, marine resources management research assistant of ECPC, said during a forum on mangrove reforestation.
“Known as the ‘rainforest of the sea’,” Gampal explained, “mangrove forest is the nursery ground for pelagic fishes.”
“Fishes from rivers and sea breed at the mangroves,” she added.
“Locally known as ‘bakawan’,” she said, “we discovered that there are three mangrove species thriving in the coastal area of Kiambing.”
Gambal and a team from the ECPC recently conducted coastal resource profiling along the Sarangani coastal area.
She said mangroves filter effluents in water coming from springs and rivers. “Mangroves maintain water quality in the shoreline,” she further explained.
She said that while it is the duty of government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to preserve mangrove forests, “people from the community should also share their effort by not cutting mangrove trees for fuel or other uses and continue guarding the mangrove areas.”
Noel Cariño of PENRO noted the depleting mangrove forest in Sarangani shore.
“Today there are less then 150,000 hectares of mangrove forest left in Sarangani,” he said.
Gampal also noted that an average of 3,700 mangrove trees in the country are being cut every year for fuel, coal and other purposes.
Cariño warned that the depletion of mangrove forests deprives fishes of its breeding grounds. “It is we, human beings, who will suffer if we have less catch,” he pointed out.
He admitted that government agencies have small budgets for reforestation. ”It’s a great help that Smart and other stakeholders are joining our drive,” he said.
Maitum Mayor Elsie Lucille Perrete said her administration is keen on the conservation of natural resources of her town.
“We intensify our campaign against illegal cutting of trees and we urge our constituents to help us widen the remaining mangrove areas in Maitum,” she stressed.
Haydee Bernabe of Smart’s public affairs division said the mangrove reforestation is the start of their yearlong engagement with the provincial government.
“We have an agreement with the province that we will support mangrove forest rehab and plant trees in the mountains,” she said.
“This is one of our thrusts, reaching the community and knowing their needs. After 6 months we will come back here and continue helping in the rehab of the mangrove area,” she added.
In a pledge of commitment forged by Smart, PENRO, barangay council of Kiambing, and the mayor’s office, they promised to continue working together in preserving and protecting Maitum’s mangrove forest through planting of seedlings, coastal cleanup drive and increasing the awareness of the communities on environmental preservation.
Vice Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon urged the community to partake in preserving the resources of sea and land “because it is not only for us today but for the children of tomorrow.”
Surgical and medical missions were also conducted at the barangay hall where Kiambing residents availed of free surgery, checkup, and medicines.
Dr. Samuel Evans from Reach International Healthcare and Training Program performed cyst removal operations while Dr. Roel Cagape handled the checkup.
Twinstar Jaycees contributed medicines for the children. (Gandhi Kinjiyo/MindaNews)