Sorsogon City – The Sorsogon Coalition for Environment Protection (SCEP) led by Ms. Arze Glipo, Executive Director of IRDF, has reached a tentative agreement with the City Government led by City Mayor Ester Hamor about the impacts the Sorsogon City Coastal Road had on the mangroves and the fisherfolk, following calls for action to stop further reclamation, including that being done by SM Sorsogon City.

Among the concerns raised were the effect of marine and fish food security as a result of the destruction of mangroves due to poor design of coastal road reclamation., causing the loss of sanctuary / breeding places of marine life. Crablets, a major resource sought after by other provinces in the Philippines, small shrimps, and fingerlings are no longer seen in near-shore.

Due to the reduction of marine and fish catch caused by the dumping over of the mangrove areas, alternative sources of livelihood should be provided. According to SCEP. the coalition noted the free flow of seawater was hampered, causing stagnation of water in some areas.

Flooding caused by the backflow of hindered seawater is now causing flooding during heavy rains and high tide in some communities along the Coastal Road. This may also cause more flooding in areas along Salog River.The waterway along the Sorsogon City Coastal Road is small so it acts like a funnel, causing strong currents that can cause danger to the fishermen and their small boats. There is no mooring near the seawall; waves may destroy their boats and there are no stairs along the seawall where there are fisherfolk communities.

According to SCEP, major businesses are adding to the pollution in Sorsogon Bay; it is observed that marine life is absent where water flows into the Bay from big drainage pipes coming from nearby streams and canals.

In response to these issues, the City Government, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the agencies committed to look into the concerns on mangrove and livelihood of fishers with the demand of the coalition to stop further reclamation was welcomed by said agencies.

The stakeholders also agreed to put up a lagoon beside the seawall before the Coastal Road that will serve as mooring dock for boats of fishermen and safe area against theft and damage. The fisherfolk volunteered to provide the specific locations where repairs to, or additional, waterways will be constructed to allow for the better flow of seawater. There are plans to enlarge waterways to minimize strong currents due to the funneling of water as it poses danger to small boats. They will also assist in the identification and planting of mangroves, nipa, or suitable tree species to provide sustainable shelter and protection to marine life. Geotagging of locations of existing and future mangrove / nipa / wetlands areas by LGU and relevant agencies will be carried out.

The parties also agreed on a comprehensive consultation with affected communities regarding the environmental protection and conservation and livelihood security impacts must be done.

The city government of Sorsogon under the Office of the Mayor is expected to issue an Executive Order creating the multi-sectoral Task Force on Sorsogon Bay concerns.

The City ENRO meanwhile is enjoined to implement measures such as identification and implementation of wetlands in suitable places, as mitigating measure to previous mangrove destruction and as tourism attraction. For issues of fisherfolks whose livelihoods are affected, the city government vowed to initiate the completion of the Sorsogon Bay Unified Fisheries Ordinance, the inclusion of ecotourism areas in the Forest Land Use / Comprehensive Land Use Plans; construction of housing for informal settlers / displaced fisherfolk along the Coastal Road and affected communities and creation of livelihood projects such as Nipa vinegar (and other viable by-products) production in Abuyog; and other livelihood projects for women (katipay or capiz shell marketing, fish drying and processing, etc. Mangrove tree planting under the annual 1 Million Trees project of the Kalikasan program of the province is also included.

The convenor of Sorsogon Coalition for Environmental Protection, Arze Glipo, is a former Board member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of this province. #30