Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Environment agencies tackle marine wildlife sanctuary issues in 2-day Tawi-Tawi meeting

A woman sells turtle eggs inside a ferry in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Jung Francisco)

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2009) – The Protected Area Management Board held a meeting in the Island of Baguan on the municipality of Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi province to asses and evaluate its programs and policies on the condition of marine wildlife sanctuary in the country.

The PAMB is a multi-sectoral body created to administer and manage protected areas. It is composed of representatives from various departments and agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Local Government Unit, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the World Wildlife Fund and tribal groups.

It also decides on the allocations of budget, approve proposals for funding and decide matters relating to planning, peripheral protection and general administration of the protected area.

Regional Director Maximo Dichoso, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the meeting held from July 23-25 tackled almost all issues and concerns, including the selling of lands that are covered by the National Integrated Protected Areas System Law.

The NIPAS law was enacted in June 1992 and provides for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines.

The act serves as the legal basis for the "In Situ" conservation of biological diversity through the appropriate management of ecologically important areas for conservation and sustainable development.

The NIPAS law also serves to protect outstandingly remarkable areas and biologically important public lands that are habitats of rare and endangered species of plants and animals representative of biogeographic zones and related ecosystems.

There were four major activities that highlighted the two-day meeting - the tree planting activities spearheaded by the Taganak National High School, PAMB officials, residents and some officials of the Tubbataha Reef from Palawan; and the release of more than 500 hatchlings, that environmentalists say only 40 percent survives and the remaining 60 percent are secretly sold to neighboring countries like Malaysia; The Write-Shop; and the launching of the Natural Resources Management Program by the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Government.

A project proposal submitted by Turtle Islands’ Mayor Omarkhan Aripin is also at the wait-list. The project targets the establishment of a Fish Port Complex and Fishing Processing Plant that will create livelihood not only to the residents of Turtle Islands but also to the whole province of Tawi-Tawi.

Turtle Islands is located at the southwestern tip of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines, about 1,000 km southwest of Manila.

Turtle Islands is on the edge of the international treaty limits separating the Philippines and Malaysia. It is composed of the islands of Boan, Lihiman, Langaan, Great Bakkungan, Taganak, and Baguan, which is situated south of Palawan, northwest of the Tawi-Tawi and northeast of Sabah, Malaysia.

Taganak, the largest island, has the highest point of land, which is approximately 148 meters above sea level. Langaan, the smallest island, is relatively flat and nested on an extensive coral reef platform.

Except for Langaan, the terrain of the islands is generally undulating to rolling, particularly at the northern end. A unique feature is the presence of "mud volcanoes," the most prominent of which is on Lihiman, where violent mud extrusions have formed a 20-meter crater on the hill at the northeast portion. Mud extrusions or volcanoes are also present on Bakkungan and Boan.

Five of the six islands have permanent residents, and on them the land cover in large areas is dominated by houses. Typical of other rural areas in the Philippines, human settlements are mixed with agriculture.

The relative dominance of the settlements is mainly due to the limited land area and the resulting high population density level, which is more than four times the national average. Natural land cover types are classified as wooded, mangrove, brush, grass and bare. Most of the areas used for agriculture are planted with coconut.

The seaweed and seagrass populations of the islands appear to be at their seral stages of development. Almost all species have some known economic value. Only those food species, when developed, are likely to be of immediate economic benefit to the local populations. (Amilbahar Mawallil and Dayang Babylyn Kano Omar)

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