Mangroves not dolomite: UP biologists offer services to rehabilitate Manila Bay

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 09 2020 06:06 PM | Updated as of Oct 11 2020 08:26 AM

People flock to baywalk to witness the sunset by the new “white sand” project in Manila Bay on September 19, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — "Science-based" programs should be implemented in order to rehabilitate Manila Bay, biologists from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman said, as they offered their services to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 

“We advocate and are willing to assist the DENR in a science-based rehabilitation program for Manila Bay that targets the recovery of its biological functions and services (e.g., through restoring and protecting key habitats, managing invasive species, reducing pollution, etc.) and understands the interplay between natural processes and human activities,” the UP Institute of Biology said in a recent statement.

“To be successful, the rehabilitation program needs to demonstrate a grasp of land-sea connectivity as well as possible immediate, short-term, and long-term impacts at species, ecosystem, and seascape scales. Its core must be the strategic protection and conservation of biodiversity and ecological integrity providing the ecosystem services: the very reason why we need to rehabilitate Manila Bay,” it added.

The institute said that the budget for dolomite sand could have been allotted as resources for the pandemic response or “viable, scientifically sound projects that can restore Manila Bay to a state that is fit for recreation.”

“The recent effort of dumping dolomite sand on a reclaimed part of Manila Bay is not the best way of spending government money; a critical resource during the pandemic that could have been put to better use by spending for the needs of medical frontliners and the millions of our hungry fellow Filipinos,” the experts said.

“The fund should have been directed to more viable, scientifically sound projects that can restore Manila Bay to a state that is fit for recreation. Collaborative action among institutions and stakeholders is needed to ensure that efforts to rehabilitate Manila bay will benefit both the environment and the society,” it added.

They added that the dumping of dolomite sand reduced the habitat of migrating waterbirds including those “threatened species.”

“The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat,” the institute said.

“Any habitat reduction or loss will reduce opportunities for migratory birds to feed and refuel on their migration journey,” it added.

Citing the Las Piñas–Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) as an example, the group of biologists suggested that rehabilitating mangroves can help in “biodiversity conservation” in Manila Bay. 

“Rehabilitating mangroves (based on species-substrate matching and species zonation) is an example of a nature-based solution (NbS) that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the group added. 

The UP Marine Science Institute earlier said that the rehabilitation of Manila Bay is an "arduous task" and efforts should come from residents, people using the area, and the government.

The institute noted that authorities should address "poor water quality" and the "threat of erosion" in Manila Bay under the government's rehabilitation program.

- With reports from Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News