Community heroism: Mangrove reforestation marks day of valor in Palawan

Gerardo C. Reyes Jr.

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Community heroism: Mangrove reforestation marks day of valor in Palawan

PLANTING. Palawan residents take part in a mangrove planting activity in Roxas town on April 9, 2024.

courtesy of Frank Joe Mojica

The Palawan mangrove planting also coincides with the month when the world celebrates Earth Day

PALAWAN, Philippines – As the entire country commemorated the heroism of the Allied Forces fighters, including Filipino soldiers and guerrillas, during the Fall of Bataan in World War II on Tuesday, April 9, villagers in Roxas town, Palawan, demonstrated their own form of heroism by planting mangrove seedlings in the village of San Nicolas.

The activity was spearheaded by the municipal government of Roxas, Palawan, under the leadership of Mayor Dennis Sabando. Employees from the municipal and national government agencies, students, civil society organizations, and volunteers participated actively.

Frank Joe Mojica and Diana Ross Cetenta, both faculty members at the Palawan State University (PSU)-Roxas campus, said students from the university participated in the early morning mangrove tree planting.

“Sa araw ng kagitingan ay naging magiting para sa kalikasan (On the day of valor, they became valiant for nature),” Mojica said of the students. 

Estarnilo Pactao, the barangay chairman of San Nicolas, said the activity was a joint effort with barangay officials and coincided with their 16th Alimango Festival. The annual event celebrates the abundance of mudcrabs in the area, a species considered a prime commodity in both the local and global markets and an important high-value crustacean produced in the country.

Marilou Manlavi, municipal environment and natural resources officer, said the mangrove planting also coincided with the month when the world celebrates Earth Day, which she described as a special event that reminds people about the shared environment.

“It plays a crucial role in raising awareness about environmental issues and advocating for positive change. We remain committed to the ongoing mission of Earth Day, which is to inspire awareness and appreciation for our planet’s environment,” Manlavi said.

In 1981, a presidential decree declared Palawan as a mangrove swamp forest reserve, acknowledging significant roles they play in the ecosystem. However, the law has not fully protected the mangroves in Palawan, as incidents in the past have led to the massive loss of mangroves, perpetrated not only by informal settlers but even by people in government.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a ranking Puerto Princesa police official was involved in the alleged occupation and destruction of a six-hectare mangrove area in Barangay Iwahig.

When confronted, the official and his men allegedly attacked and arrested personnel from the environment department in an incident that marked a first of its kind in Palawan and dealt a blow to environmental enforcement. 

A few days after the incident, the Philippine National Police (PNP) relieved the officials of his duties and transferred him to another province, where he subsequently died.

Another massive loss of Palawan’s mangroves, discovered seven years ago, caught national attention. In 2017, the late Gina Lopez, then the environment secretary, led authorities in raiding a five-hectare property in Barangay San Manuel that had been carved out from a mangrove area. Lopez ordered demolition operations, and those found responsible were sent to jail.

These massive losses occurred simultaneously with many other smaller-scale clearings of mangroves to make way for informal settlements.

For many locals, mangroves are vital resources that need protection, especially considering that Palawan heavily relies on its fisheries and marine resources.

An internationally recognized Filipina mangrove scientist, Dr. Jurgenne Primavera, said mangroves are among the most crucial components of coastal ecosystems, being highly productive and biologically complex.

She said the presence of abundant fish, crustaceans, shells, and other marine resources in areas rich with mangroves is an indicator of the richness and diversity of the coastal environment.

Beyond their critical role in food security, mangroves also shield coastal communities during natural disasters. 

Primavera has been advocating for the establishment of coastal greenbelts through the rehabilitation of denuded mangrove areas or the conversion of former fishponds back into mangrove forests.

“The mangroves are bio-shields. If you want to reduce the wave energy by 60%, you should have 100 meters of these greenbelts,” she said. –

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