Subic Bay Freeport initiates wetlands project

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Stakeholders in the Subic Bay Freeport joined the international community in celebrating this year’s World Wetlands Day with an environmental project designed to protect mangrove forests in the free port.

Spearheaded by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the first Subic Bay Wetlands Celebration last Wednesday (Feb. 1) saw around 150 employees and environmental officers from different companies participating in various activities with the theme “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction.”

Inside the Freeport’s Binictican-Malawaan Mangrove Area, participants were divided into groups: one group was assigned to pick-up, identify and record trash and garbage found inside the mangrove area, and another to plant mangrove samplings in “vacant” portions of the area.

Another group was assigned to count and record how many living crustaceans they could find in every one square meter-area of the wetland to determine the biodiversity in the area.

SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma said the activity was aimed at educating the participants on the importance of wetlands to the coastal communities, the environment and marine life.

“We appreciate the participants for sharing their time in raising public awareness about the importance of the wetlands and contribute to the conservation and protection of our mangrove forests,” she said.

The SBMA Ecology Center will use the data from the project as reference in formulating a mangrove management plan (MMP) that will define guidelines and policies related to the protection and conservation of all mangrove areas in the Freeport.

There is an estimated 62 hectares of wetlands in the Subic Bay Freeport located in Boton, Binictican-Malawaan, Triboa, Nabasan and Ilanin.

In these areas, 37 species of mangroves are found and serve as feeding, spawning and nursery grounds to much marine life. The mangrove forests are also considered as nature’s buffer to natural hazards such as flooding caused by storms, cyclones, storm surges and tsunamis.

Among the objectives of the MMP is to regulate the harvesting of all resources, such as fish, crabs, woods among others, inside the mangrove areas through the help of a community-based monitoring team.

The World Wetlands Day was first celebrated internationally in 1997 and is now observed every second day of February, which marks the date of the adaption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

The global celebration features activities to raise public awareness and promote the conservation and protection of wetlands, and includes seminars, mangrove adventures, and other festivities.

PHOTO: Volunteers conduct an epifaunal survey using a quadrant frame to count living species in swamplands during the celebration of World Wetlands Day at the Subic Bay Freeport.

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