The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) welcomed the recognition of the Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve in Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (SIPLAS) as a Wetland of International Importance during the World Wetlands Day (WWD) 2023 celebration on February 2.

Anchored on the theme, “It’s Time for Wetland Restoration,” the national celebration of WWD 2023 was led by the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and hosted by the Local Government Unit of Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte.

The celebration showcased the ecological benefits of a restored wetland and the restoration efforts in the Del Carmen mangroves, reaping the fruits of wetland conservation, protection and restoration work with increased fishery resources, alternative livelihood from tourism, and increased protection from storm surge, especially during the onslaught of typhoon Odette in December 2021.

In a video message, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects Marcial Amaro Jr. emphasized the importance of wetlands, such as mangrove swamp forests in serving as a barrier and the first line of defense of the communities against natural disasters and effects of climate change.

“The wetlands of Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape or SIPLAS serve as a testament to these ecological functions during the height of typhoon Odette. If not for these mangrove forests, the damage to the communities of SIPLAS could have been worse and more people could have suffered. This testament is one of the many reasons we should protect our wetlands from further degradation,” Amaro said.

He also encouraged the municipal government of Del Carmen, Protected Area Management Office of SIPLAS, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Surigao del Norte, and DENR-Caraga, along with local communities to “continue the quest for good wetland governance to uphold its distinction as among the tourism gems of the country.”

The recognition of Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve serves as a precursor to its nomination for inclusion in the global network of significant wetlands known as the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance or Ramsar Sites.

The mangrove reserve has already fulfilled two of the criteria for being a Ramsar Site. Its rich biodiversity and the ecological benefits of 4,800 hectares of mangrove that cover one of the largest contiguous mangrove reserves in the country, and the presence of an assemblage of endemic, native and migratory species, make this part of SIPLAS globally important.

In 2010, the municipal government of Del Carmen worked to restore the mangrove forest and save it from illegal activities, such as mangrove cutting and poaching. The area now covers about 53 percent of Siargao Island’s total mangrove forest.

DENR-Caraga Regional Executive Director Nonito Tamayo reiterated the call for cooperation and support of the DENR, local officials, and the community of Del Carmen to “never stop and continue pursuing environmental advocacies that are beneficial for Siargao.”

The WWD 2023 celebration also featured an exposure trip to the Del Carmen mangroves, 1.8 kilometer mangrove boardwalk, and SIPLAS mangrove view deck.

The event concluded with the launch of the view deck led by the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) of SIPLAS with PENRO Surigao del Norte and Mayor Alfredo Matugas Coro II of Del Carmen.

The WWD 2023 is in collaboration DENR-Caraga, PENRO Surigao del Norte, PAMO-SIPLAS, municipal government of Del Carmen, USAID-Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans, and Landscapes project, DENR-United Nations Development Fund/Global Environment Facility (UNDP/GEF) Integrated Approach in the Management of Major Biodiversity Corridors in the Philippines project, Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor project, and FPE-UNDP/GEF Seventh Operational Phase of the Small Grants Programme in the Philippines project. ###