By: Michaela T. Rongavilla


       The Regional Technical Director for Protected Area, Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Service, Gwendolyn C. Bambalan, DPA, CESE, has served as the Head of Delegation of the Philippine government who attended the recent “Regional Symposium on Mangrove Ecosystem in Southeast Asia” held in Surabaya, Indonesia last February 27 to March 01, 2013.
     The three-day engagement was attended by different representatives from various countries in Southeast Asia. The activities were comprised of a) presentation of national delegates regarding mangrove development in their respective countries;  b) interactive discussion on different issues affecting mangrove areas and; c) ASEAN government officials’ meeting on mangrove ecosystem management.
     RTD Bambalan presented a country report entitled “Philippine Trajectory in Mangrove Development”. It showcased our country’s rich and diverse natural resource which is associated on its geographical attributes and in turn, greatly influencesits economy. It also emphasized how coastal resources provide numerous benefits on Filipino households, and thus the impending need to preserve and manage our marine reserves. The presentation then focused on mangrove ecosystem, which plays a vital role in upholding the marine ecosystem.  It also highlighted significant events that marked in the history of mangrove development which gave birth to national laws and policies that aim to protect, preserve and enhance our mangrove forests. The plenary report also featured the currently implemented programs and projects such as Coastal Law Enforcement, national and local initiatives, in cooperation with non-government organizations and other sectors. Such examples include the declaration of Marine Protected Areas, and Integrated Coastal Resource Management Program. Various challenges and opportunities in mangrove development were also presented in the report. Population management, harmonization of policies among government agencies and institutionalization of existing information monitoring tools were some of the identified challenges that can be faced and can pave way for promising opportunities. Strategies such as mainstreaming of good practices and learnings generated in special projects, development of alternative livelihood, and education, outreach and awareness-building are one of the means that may help us materialize the goals and objectives of the national laws in conservation of mangrove areas. We are hopeful to visualize a positive perspective that in the nearest future, all our efforts will entail a flourishing marine ecosystem brought about by a sustainable management of well-protected and healthier mangrove forests.
       A variety of topics were raised and discussed over an interactive session, and these were composed of issues that affect the mangrove development and management. The roles of mangrove in climate change, conservation and restoration of mangroves together with its technical and socio-economic aspects, and coastal management and livelihood, were the subject matters deliberated by national delegates.
        The last day of the event covered the ASEAN government officials meeting on mangrove ecosystem management. The AMNet, or the ASEAN Association of Mangrove Network presented their Rules on Procedures and Terms of Reference which then subsequently discussed by other member states. It was raised by RTD Bambalan that there are certain limitations reflected in our national laws with respect to the expected outputs of AMNet such as the granting of timber products, since our country is still implementing the ban on cutting of mangrove species as mandated by RA 7161. Also, it was suggested the need to harmonize certain provisions on the Rules on Procedures and Terms of Reference of the AMNet. These notions from our head of delegation were strongly supported by representatives of other Asian countries. The meeting was adjourned with an agreement to circulate the revised draft to ASEAN member states for their comments and suggestions, to be done by the ASEAN secretariat.
        This international collaboration on mangrove development provided significant facts and information that are potentially beneficial in our national programs and policies on mangrove areas. Such highly promising ideas should be taken into great consideration and action and thus be consequently cascaded from national to local levels, in the service of providing our present and future generations a better world to live in. 


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