Stakeholders gathered in Iloilo City for a three-day workshop last month to come up with policy recommendations that will hasten the cancellation of the fishpond lease agreements (FLA) that are "abandoned, underutilized and unutilized."
Dr. Jurgene H. Primavera, scientist emeritus of the South East Asia Fisheries Development (SEAFDEC)-Aquaculture Department and the project manager of the Community Based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project in the Philippines by the Zoology Society of London, said that after the cancellation, the area will be turned over to the proper agency that will spearhead the mangrove reversion.
Through the workshop, she hoped that it can come up with policy recommendations for concerned agencies which include the Department of Agriculture - Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR); Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
The DA-BFAR, basically because of the fishponds, DENR for the mangroves and the DILG for those ponds and mangrove sites located in the territories of local government units (LGUs), she explained.
Dr. Primavera dis-closed that based on studies, some 50,000 to 80,000 hectares of FLA nationwide are already abandoned and under utilized.
"There are completely abandoned areas. Those with lease holders, some parts are operating while others are not so underutilized," she said. "The law specified abandoned, underutilized and unutilized fishpond lease agreement will be covered."
The cancellation will be done by the (DA-BFAR) while the DENR will "be tasked to revert the place into a mangrove forest."
The DENR may opt for an active planting if the area is bare or if there are mangroves they may just allow the water to come back to allow propagules to self-regenerate, she added.
"We hope for a faster cancellation and reversion because as of now, the process is very slow. With the new administration we are hopeful," she said.
She cited that based on studies, the cancellation often takes some five to 20 years while the reversion has to go through many steps.
Primavera added that the policy recommendations that they will be coming up will be addressed to the secretaries of the three departments.
A time table will also be made for each recommendation to ensure that the action will be fast tracked.
The national workshop gathered stakeholders to include non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs), lawyers, pond operators and rep-resentatives of concerned agencies. (PNA) /MP