June 22, 2022
The Sibugay Coastal Wetlands (SCW) will be renamed Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve (SWNR) as Philippines anticipates its inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance when contracting parties meet in December this year in Gland, Switzerland.
Georgina Fernandez, Conservation and Development chief of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Zamboanga Sibugay, said that the Ramsar Site designation will open opportunities for international cooperation on research.
It will help raise funding for conservation and protection of the site.
Provincial Eenvironment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Edgardo P. Montojo said it is important to advocate for the wise use the wetlands’ resources so it will be enjoyed by future generations. Here, the Ramsar list will play a unique role.
DENR-Region IX is preparing the documents for the inclusion of the SWNR into the list. These will be submitted to the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) – the designated Ramsar National Administrative Authority for endorsement to the Office of the DENR Secretary who will then endorse it to the Ramsar authorities.
The effort toward the declaration of SWNR as Ramsar site is part of conserving its rich biodiversity and the cultural heritage of Subanens and other ethnic tribes in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Its designation also supports the country’s commitment to the Ramsar Convention as well as to the Convention on Biodiversity and Convention on Migratory Species, said Michael F. Dela Cruz, PENRO Sibugay Technical Services chief.
The listing will protect the rich biodiversity of Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve which is home to 68 waterbird species – 43 migratory species– 9 Near Threatened species and 4 Threatened species namely Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Chinese Egret and Philippine Duck.
Banded (with flags/ring) waterbirds were also documented in the wetland with banding sites from China, Taiwan, Russia, Australia, and Japan.
The 172,007.25-hectare Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve has vast areas of mangroves, mudflats, seagrass and corals.
“The mangrove forest plays a major role in the productivity of the wetland, especially for fisheries as well as roosting site for the largest Flying Fox population in the country. The wetland also serves as a staging, roosting and foraging grounds various waterbirds, marine turtles and whale shark according to DENR wildlife experts.
The proposed Sibugay Wetlands Nature Reserve covers 9 municipalities out of the 16 Sibugay towns. Two Marine Protected Area Networks (MPAN) are housed in this proposed nature reserve.
DENR IX through PENRO Sibugay is completing in the second quarter of 2022 the Nagao Funded Project which aims to empower the local communities on the sustainable use of the wetland and its resources.
It also aims to organize and operationalize its citizen science group and implement the community-based wetland action plan, according to Fernandez, also chief of the Nagao Wetland-funded “Establishing Knowledge on the International Importance of Sibugay Wetlands: A Means to Enhance Wise Use of the Proposed Ramsar Site.”
The Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve will be Philippines’ ninth Ramsar Site when granted this recognition.
Other Ramsar Sites in the country are Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Naujan Lake National Park, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area, and
Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetlands. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)