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NegOcc wetlands getting int’l recognition

It is very interesting that, finally, the wetlands of Negros Occidental are now getting not only local but national and international recognition in terms of their global conservation values and importance.

On February 2 last week, in time of the World Wetlands Day’s commemoration, it was revealed that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the secretariat of the Ramsar Convention have already recognized the wetlands of southern Negros Occidental, stretching from the coastal areas of Bago City down to Ilog town, as Wetlands of International Importance. 

Once the complete documentation shall be completed and submitted, these areas have to be officially inscribed as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, which is an intergovernmental treaty that provides framework for the national and international action and cooperation in the conservation and wise use of wetlands and other natural resources found in these areas.  The Philippines is one of the signatories of this convention.

Once declared, these coastal wetlands in southern Negros Occidental will be the 7thRamsar Site in the Philippines. The existing Ramsar Sites in the country are Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu, Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro, Agusan Marsh Wildife Sanctuary in eastern Mindanao, Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area in Manila, and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and Puerto Princesa Underground River Natural Park in Palawan.

Wetlands are very important, especially for migratory birds. They provide refuge and shelter for migratory birds that are fleeing from areas where winter is occurring. Some of these species are already listed as globally threatened from extinction in the wild. 

The joint monitoring of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc., DENR, Provincial Environment Management Office, and concerned local governments showed that the southern wetlands of Negros Occidental, about 110 kilometers in length and estimated to cover a total of 86,000 hectares, are sheltering thousands of important migratory birds, such as the Common redshank, Terek sandpiper and Red-necked stint.  The threatened endemic Philippine duck has also been noted in the area.

Lisa Paguntalan, PBCFI director for Field Operations and an ornithologist by profession, said the variety and number of species found in these areas are good enough to propose their declaration as the new Ramsar site of the Philippines.

During the unveiling ceremony held at the Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City last week, Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. expressed support for the protection of Negros Occidental’s wetlands, as he emphasized that they will boost the ecotourism potentials of the province. The international recognition of the province’s wetlands will attract the attention of conservationists, nature hobbyists and tourists, who may come to visit Negros Occidental, Marañon added.

Aside from their significance for migratory birds and biodiversity, in general, wetlands are also known for their other ecological services.  These areas are permanently or seasonally saturated by water to support vegetation that can adapt to saturated soil conditions. As such, the main function of wetlands is to conserve and provide water for various purposes. In addition, wetlands also help purify water, regulate water flow and precipitation and serve as flood control system since they provide shoreline stability. Wetlands include swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers, deltas, oases, estuaries and peatlands, among others.*

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