You never miss the water until the well runs dry” fittingly describe the misgivings of many communities with regard to the importance of wetlands.

For decades, there has been a global clamor for the public to take cognizance of the value and benefits that wetlands provide. In 1971, governments the world over adopted the Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) as the only global treaty which focuses on the protection of wetlands. The Government of the Philippines enforced the Ramsar Convention on November 8, 1994 with seven (7) sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance and a surface area comprising 244,017 hectares. However, for the most part this was received half-heartedly, and in some cases, even on deaf ears. It was only during the historic temporary closure and rehabilitation of the world-class tourist destination - Boracay Island - that the conservation and wise use of wetlands became a hot topic. It hugged the headlines of the tri-media and was a favorite topic on the internet and the various social media platforms. This paved the way for creating public awareness on the importance of wetlands.

Following the marching orders of no less than President Rodrigo R. Duterte to clean up what he referred to as a “cesspool”, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu took charge and sadly assailed how negligence resulted to the wetlands of Boracay losing its purpose. He emphasized that as kidneys of the earth, wetlands must be restored to act as catchment during rainy days and prevent flooding. Aside from absorbing excess rainfall, wetlands with their mangrove forest also serve as breeding grounds of marine species and are home to both endemic and migratory wildlife. True to his words, Secretary Cimatu pushed for the unprecedented action of reclaiming and rehabilitating the wetlands of Boracay Island to restore them to their original state. The same laudable effort has since been replicated across the archipelago with a sense of urgency.

Knowing the wetlands

According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), “a wetland is a place where the land is covered by water, either salt, fresh or somewhere in between. Marshes and ponds, the edge of a lake or ocean, the delta at the mouth of a river, low-lying areas that frequently flood—all of these are wetlands.” Eastern Visayas is host to a number of areas considered as wetlands. Among these, the DENR is monitoring seven (7) wetlands because of the presence of migratory birds considered as one of the gauges to determine a healthy wetland. These sites are: Ormoc Bay Wetlands in Ormoc City; Carigara Bay Wetland located in the municipalities of Carigara and Barugo, Leyte; Guiuan Intertidal Flats in Guiuan, Eastern Samar; Maqueda Bay Wetlands along the municipalities of Jiabong and Paranas, Samar; Lake Bito in MacArthur, Leyte; St. Bernard-Hinunangan of Southern Leyte; and Tres Marias Islands located in Palompon, Leyte. These wetlands have been verified to offer breeding grounds for fishes, sanctuary for migratory birds dubbed as “visitors without passports” and a dependable protection from flooding.

What then is the significance of wetlands?

Again from the WWF, “wetlands...are some of the most productive habitats on the planet. They often support high concentrations of animals - including mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates—and serve as nurseries for many of these species. Wetlands also support the cultivation of rice, a staple in the diet of half the world’s population. And they provide a range of ecosystem services that benefit humanity, including water filtration, storm protection, flood control and recreation. Without wetlands, cities have to spend more money to treat water for their citizens, floods are more devastating to nearby communities, storm surges from hurricanes can penetrate farther inland, animals are displaced or die out, and food supplies are disrupted, along with livelihoods.”(https:// www.worldwildlife.org/habitats/wetlands) We should therefore allow wetlands to co-exist with us and not treat them as a hindrance to our definition of progress and development. Wetlands are our natural dependable ally as they offer a myriad benefits free of charge. Properly managed, it can generate alternative livelihood through recreation tourism, assist in mitigating sea level rise, give rise to fertile agricultural lands, control destructive flooding and serve as buffer from storm surges and strong winds.

Presently, we are witnessing positive signs of people becoming more responsible to the environment. They are now enlightened of the importance of wetlands, drawing lessons from events such as storm surges and floods. Teresita Dumdum, a septuagenarian from the coastal town of Paranas, Samar has observed that more than 200 meters of once dry land along the coastline of Brgy. Poblacion in that town is now underwater due to increasing level of seawater. She shared, “this unfortunate event was happening just as the mangrove forest in the area was getting sparse and fish catch was becoming scarce.” This is a testament of the cause and effect relationship between healthy mangrove ecosystems with stable soil to that of bountiful marine resources. The absence of one results to wanting of another.

Wetlands as a thing of the past?

There was a time that wetlands as they are, were left undisturbed by any form of human activities. As a result, they thrived and were a healthy habitat of varied forms of wildlife. Wetlands then were a fully functional natural deterrent against flooding and a continuous source of water to the communities.

Through the years, wetlands have undergone a total make-over. Worst, in some places they cease to be as such and have been converted to other uses. Wittingly or otherwise, the less than favorable trend of wetlands condition can be attributed to many factors. It can be the wanting of needed information to have proper appreciation of its existence which can branch out to not well planned-out development of wetland areas. Another culprit may be attributed to irresponsible utilization of its resources and the population boom that results to illegal encroachment.

One such abuse is that of rampant cutting of mangrove as a rich source of quality fuel wood for home and commercial uses which is common among communities. Mangrove trees are also being used as raw material in the building of houses and fences.

Melchor Garado, a farmer from Brgy. Panagmitan, Guiuan, Eastern Samar, narrated how people from the poblacion and other neighboring towns would even use chainsaw to cut mangrove trees in great numbers to be used as firewood for their bakeshops. “It is a good thing that many bakeshops are now into electric ovens. Unfortunately, there are still reported incidents of cutting under cover of darkness and using bancas,” says Mr. Garado.

Vicente Abadiano, a 74 year old fisherman and a 20-year resident of Poblacion, Paranas, Samar has witnessed a noticeable decline of fish catch and the numbers of migratory birds visiting the area became lesser and lesser through the years. “It is clear to me now that the denudation of mangrove forest due to rampant cutting and illegal poaching is the cause for the dwindling of the once abundant presence of migratory birds,” says the elderly Abadiano.

A village chief in Motiong, Samar also attributed the cutting of mangroves and rural development into mangrove forest as culprit for dwindling coastal and marine resources as well as the proliferation of solid waste, especially those made of plastics. As part of several migratory sites that DENR is monitoring, there are also barangays in Guiuan, Eastern Samar with intertidal flats that are being monitored for the presence of migratory birds. Built up communities have replaced what used to be thriving mangrove trees in these wetlands. When Typhoon Ursula struck in December of 2019, the coastal barangay of Baras in that town experienced flooding caused by storm surge reaching up to 1.6 meters. Houses near the shore were washed away and docked fishing boats were destroyed. It was higher than what they experienced during super typhoon Yolanda. Clearly, the reduced number of mangrove trees has significantly increased the risk to storm surges and flooding in the area. “When mangroves were still in abundance, we would hide our boats there during inclement weather which was an effective shelter. That is no longer the case lately,” lamented Roberto Rodriguez, barangay captain of Brgy. Campoyong, an adjacent barangay of Baras, Guiuan, E. Samar.

Dwindling resources

“There was a time that the area was still thickly forested with mangrove trees and my father who was a fisherman, can easily catch 12 kilos of fish on ordinary days. Now, we consider it a lucky day if we are able to catch 3 kilos,” says Annalyn Caadan, a resident of Brgy. Baras.

Residents of the same barangay also noticed that fewer migratory birds are seen on the wetlands. They likewise testify that there are even species of birds which they haven’t seen anymore.

Melchor Garado, a farmer of Brgy. Baras was quick in pointing out the cause for the declined number of migratory birds and the dwindling fish catch. He said, “mangrove denudation has deprived fishes of their natural breeding grounds and it in effect denied the migratory birds the food they need as well as their roosting area.”

Hope remains for the wetlands

It is a bitter pill to swallow that we have to first suffer the consequences of the abuse many of us have committed on our wetlands and the environment as a whole. But as has been repeatedly pointed out, it is from humbly learning and accepting our shortcomings that we are able to start a new beginning armed with all the lessons of the past.

People and communities are now better equipped with the needed information for them to appreciate the role of wetlands to our very own existence - even survival. Even government projects geared towards urban and rural development already take into account the need to preserve and protect the wetlands. Progress is not simply equated to the length of roads concreted or the buildings constructed. The rule of thumb is that of holistic development – human progress and development that does not sacrifice the environment. In this case, the wetlands, knowing too well that it is not simply a saturated land. It is more than that.

Based on the monitoring of the World Wetlands Foundation (WWF), there has already been positive development since the Convention on Wetlands was signed in Ramsar, Iran as an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

 Already, many governments, institutions and organizations have initiated efforts for wetlands conservation and protection. It is said that close to 193,000 hectares of wetlands have been protected since the treaty was adopted in 1975.

In Eastern Visayas, mangrove forest rehabilitation has been taking center stage with many sectors of society who are now into mangrove growing. Ecotourism ventures within wetlands have been developed or are slated for development. A concrete example is the Naungan Mangrove Ecopark in Ormoc City which has been a source of additional income by the members of the Naungan San Juan Mangrove Planters Association (NSJMPA).

 In St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, there is a proposed bird sanctuary along the wetlands that encompasses barangays San Isidro, Panian and Himbangan because of the monitored presence of migratory birds which the residents describe to be in their “thousands”. Having organized themselves into a mangrove planters association, they are now starting to witness the fruits of their labor with a significant increase of the mangrove forest in their area.

Josefa Tabala, an elderly who has resided in Brgy. San Isidro since the 1970’s is a living witness to the increasing trend of migratory birds in the area after they have been aggressive with mangrove growing along the coastal area. “Ever since we have restored the mangrove forest, it greatly reduced the flooding in our barangay and has sheltered us numerous times from strong waves. We also noticed the increasing volume of fishermen’s catch from the sea like that of shrimps, shells and different types of fishes,” shared Ms. Tabala.

Likewise, many local government units are increasingly cooperating with national government agencies like DENR and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the implementation and enforcement of environmental laws particularly on mangrove, coastal and marine resources. This is made even more effective with the support and compliance by the residents themselves. They now know better than to disregard the wetlands.

This recent development, both initiatives from the public and private sectors, is pointing us to the right direction - a revitalized and a hopeful future of wetlands. While optimistic of what lies ahead, we must not put down our guard and be swayed to complacency.

Hopeful, yes. But we must not forget that there is still much to done.

The heaps of trash that’s long been resting in the corners of her home awakened her creativity - the ingenuity of a woman, and the quick-witted nature of a mom.

Tired of seeing all the trash, Ms. Dianne Asanza, a mother and a home maker thought of reviving the value of unused materials perceived by her household as trash.

“I got worried seeing all the plastics. Where shall these materials go? How will these be disposed by the garbage collectors?” Ms. Dianne anxiously asked herself. “I want to make sure that my trash does not contribute to the garbage that destructs the environment. The only way I can do this, is turn it into something useful instead of just entrusting it to the collectors,” she adds.

3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recyle. This principle has been promoted to generations for years, and the idea has been embraced by many into their lifestyles. For instance, reducing gas consumption by walking rather than getting a ride in going to nearby destinations, using old papers as scratch or reusing to-be-discarded items for a purpose, and turning used materials into new materials such as shredding old papers to make new paper materials.

Ms. Dianne is a fan of the 3Rs, but she is not limiting her creativity to the usual. Earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, her passion for art is innate, and beyond this, her personal advocacy towards environmental protection and conservation through proper solid waste management.

She shares, “I started organizing my personal things and ended up scrutinizing the scrap pile because I wanted stuffs which shall become my organizers. I started working on a plastic pipe which seems so useless. I turned it into my hair dryer and brush stand with a little touch of art.” She saw it was nice and useful, and started creating other stuff from scratch.

“At first, it was garbage - cans, bottles, used ribbons, cloth, paper, boxes - anything that we have used and wished to throw away. I felt there was a conscious need to show concern for the environment, so I thought of saving these items instead of throwing them,” she adds.

With her imaginative mind and creative hands, she enthusiastically ventured into upcycling, an activity which became a byword in the family. They got so involved in this type of recycling where waste is converted into new products and materials that are better than the original or have better environmental value.

 The interest of turning wastes into better and useful crafts cascaded into each and every member of the family. Realizing that waste reduction is indeed possible, each one shared his own way of being involved in upcycling.

Ms. Dianne shares, “my mom got a boring, 70’s looking, unserviceable lamp shade from a garage sale, and gave it to me. It was unusable, so I decided to strip off the thick cloth and made a few alterations. I punched out some areas using a stencil and covered it with blue organza and placed some tassels and some glitter to make it very different from its original look. I then salvaged a lamp base which was on its way to disposal and did a little work on it as well. Now it’s a star among my decors, fascinating my guests.”

Her passion for upcycling became ardent, that even small things such as bra wires are turned into fashionable bracelets.

“My garbage is much less than the usual. My mind is constantly working and looking for ways to transform garbage into useful bits and pieces and it just works like magic,” Ms. Dianne said as she shares her advocacy to minimize waste.

She said her artworks are given as gifts or tokens for friends during special events citing that these are even more special, because she puts herself into every piece she creates including that special bonding moment with her family while creating her crafts. Since she started in 2015, she has created loads of fancy stuffs from trash. With all her creations, she intends to put up a store where her artworks may be sold. “Less garbage, productive free time, more profit,” Dianne stressed.

This activity tickled the interest of her friends, turning Ms. Dianne into an effective influencer. She inspires others to do the same thing with their garbage by posting her upcycling activities in social media.

“This is my own little way of influencing others to reduce the litters that adversely affect our environment. Unused things need not add up to the burden of Mother Earth. It is important that we create an opportunity to value products that would just end up in the dumpsites.  Let’s re-use, reduce, recycle, and upcycle,” Ms. Dianne stressed.

In the heydays of the yesteryears, every Filipino adored the beauty of this body of water. With its crystalline surface, tranquil environment and captivating scenery— that’s the Manila Bay our old foks had cherised for a long time. 

Feature Mani LOVE Bay web2

In the faraway Barangay Kalabugao, in the town Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon lives a Philippine eagle with the barangay’s namesake that has been through the extremes of life and death, and now, has fully matured and had her own family.  Kalabugao, a female raptor, is the world’s first case of a rescued and rehabilitated young eagle surviving and successfully breeding after her release back to the wild.  

Feature Kalabugao revised web2

Officials and employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), including visitors nowhavethe chance to familiarize themselves with the agency’s priority legislative agenda through an exhibit set up at the DENR Central Office main lobby.

The week-long exhibit, which runs from June 10 to 14,coincides with the 32nd anniversary celebration of the DENR, as well as the 121st Philippine Independence Day.

It showcasesproposals that have been pending in the legislative mill for years but are up for re-filing in the upcoming 18th Congress.

These include: the Land Use Bill (House Bill or HB 5240); amendment in the Mining Law (HB 6259); E-waste Management Bill (HB 2964); and the Delineation of Forest Limits Bill (HB 143).

DLLO pic1

The exhibit was put up by the DENR Legislative Liaison Office (DLLO), which is headed by Assistant Secretary Joan Lagunda as the agency’s appointed Legislative Liaison Officer.

Lagunda in her message assured the DENR of the DLLO’s steadfast commitment in advancing the interest of the environment.

“Under the present leadership, the environment-loving community can be assured that the LLO is striving to be heard by our revered lawmakers to craft legislations that will empower the Department more in performing its mandate,” she stated.

DLLO pic2

The exhibit also features a video presentation on the background of the DLLO, as well as the officials who have managed the office. Among these officials are Undersecretaries Ernesto Adobo, Juan Miguel Cuna, and AnalizaRebuelta-Teh; Assistant Secretary Joselin Marcus Fragada; and Director NiloTamoria.

The DLLO is the office tasked to liaise with both houses of Congress regarding all matters impinging on relations between the DENR and the legislative branch.

It is also the official representative of the DENR in the Legislative Liaison System of the Office of the President, with Secretary AdelinoSitoy, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, as the Chief Legislative Liaison Officer.

Parties interested in pending environmental legislative proposals may contact the DLLO via telephone number 920-1761, or through email address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..###