Sultan Kudarat coastal town mangrove forest projects gaining grounds

COTABATO CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) — Local residents in the coastal town of Lebak in Sultan Kudarat have been successful in protecting its coastal areas and marine life through mangrove forests with the local government working to declare the mangrove site as protected area.

Lebak Mayor Dionisio Besana said local folks have been helping the LGU to expand areas of municipal mangrove forests that have been getting the attention of students and professional researchers studying wildlife and marine biodiversity.

The same mangrove forests are also rising along the coast of Kalamansig and Barangay Sta Clara, also in Kalamansig.

Mayor Besana said the municipal mangrove project in the coast of Lebak, stretching about 50 kilometers coast facing the Moro Gulf, started in 2004 by the town’s former local officials.

Now, the mangrove forests cover 300 square kilometers, mostly in the village of Taguisa, Tran and Tibpuan. Village locals started planting the mangroves to protect its coast from constant soil erosion and sea waves destruction.

Rich mangrove areas in Lebak was destroyed by tidal waves that hit the town following the magnitude 9.7 earthquake in August 1979.

Village mangrove watchmen were organized to protect the mangroves from invaders because mangroves are commonly used as underground foundation of buildings. Now the mangrove forests has become sanctuary of birds and fish species.

“We are working to have the Taguisan mangrove sites declared protected area by the national government,” according to Mauro Delasan, municipal environment and natural resources officer.

Several varieties of “Bakawan” mangroves have been introduced in the Taguisa forests as the local government was expanding the forests to cover more areas.

Besana said his office is closely working with the local government of adjacent town of Kalamansig for coordinated action in protecting the mangrove forests of two municipalities.

“Cutting of Bakawan tress is strictly prohibited by a local ordinance and heavy penalties await violators,” Besana told reporters.

He said tourists and researchers from as far as Davao City and Gen. Santos City have been visiting the mangrove forests for research purposes.

Several local governments from Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay have also coordinated with the mayor’s office for possible study tour on the marine protection project.

“We are glad to share this with other local government units in Mindanao, we would like to propagate how our locals protect environment in the face of climate change,” he added. (PNA)