BAKAWAN, the vernacular term for mangrove literally translates as “haunt of nightjars (bakaw).” The tangle of branches that the slow-growing, sturdy tree locked in tight hugs over mudflats, marshes, shoals, and stretches of riparian parts looking over the sea also hold teeming wildlife—most are edible, some a delight to epicures… egrets, herons, arboreal snakes, sea serpents, migrating geese or ducks, even an endangered species or two.
The knot of roots that a mature mangrove jabs into a nether bed of mud and sand fan out every which way deep, ramifying into a network that sucks in and tames tide-borne throwaways, trash, toxins, even oil slicks. Indeed, mangrove stands render seawater fit for marine life.
Low tide unravels a mangrove stand’s teeming hoard- octopi, crabs, clams, mussels, oysters, eels, lobsters, mantis shrimps, a barracuda or two, the usual shrimps and the young of motley deepwater-dwelling commercial fish species. Mangrove stands serve as nurseries or halfway shelter for the cache of catch that the seas can proffer profusely.
In an island off the western coast of Mindoro, all it took was the persistence and persevering spirit of one Adelardo Declito to bring back to life the depleted depths of the nearby arms of the sea. All he did was jab mangrove propagules throughout the coastal portions of the island. Alone he did it—no honors, not a cross-eyed centavo ever was tossed his way as he went about a not-too-tiresome task of riparian reforestation.
Indeed, a dozen tier-deep mangrove stand can take, tame the jarring impact of eight-meter high storm surges that a super storm like Yolanda can muster.
Add several lines of halophytes—salt-tolerant tree species like sea grape, agojo, palomaria, talisay, guamachil and coconut palms—on the shoreline and mammoth storm surges sieved through such lines of defense are likely to turn less lethal.
Some bright boys over at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have warmed up to the idea mounting such multiple lines of defense in areas wrecked by Yolanda. And they want P347 million to bankroll the so-called restoration of lush beach forests of the Visayas.
Such pecuniary thrust would seem peculiar to an Adelardo Declito of Mindoro Occidental.
Mobilizing natural resources entail gathering of mangrove and halophyte seedlings, planting these in strategic parts of the country’s eastern seaboard.
Mobilizing human resources need not cost P347 million. This task need not rip a hole in the Filipino taxpayer’s pockets.
The man to turn to for the twin task of mobilizing both natural and human resources ought to be DepEd top honcho Bro. Armin A. Luistro.
Gathering of mangrove propagules and halophyte seedlings, then, planting these can be hands-on learning sessions for school children in the areas that are likely targets for more Yolandas brewing in the Pacific.
Upkeep of the mangroves and halophyte stands can take more than five years— and that can provide some more learning sessions to school children in the finer points of conserving marine resources and coastal environments.
A wise man plants trees so that his grandchildren may enjoy fruits and shade. Bro. Luistro can harness the exuberance and energy of children.