The government will nominate the Sibugay Coastal Wetlands hto the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance as part of conserving its rich biodiversity and the cultural heritage of Zamboanga Sibugay’s Subanens and other ethnic tribes.
The Sibugay Coastal Wetlands (SCW) will be Philippines’ eighth on the Ramsar List when granted this recognition.
The listing will protect its rich wildlife which is home to 53 waterbird species– 37 migratory waterbirds and 11 threatened migratory waterbirds.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is completing in the second quarter of 2022 the project “Establishing Knowledge on the International Importance of Sibugay Wetlands:  A Means to Enhance Wise use of the Proposed Ramsar Site.”
Sibugay Wetlands’  187,000-hectare area has been extensively planted with mangroves totalling 5,155 hectares.  It has mudflats (bay mud) spanning 1,607 hectares.
“The mangrove forest plays a major role int he productivity of the wetland, especially for fisheries as well as roosting site for the largest Flying Fox population. Sibugay Wetlands serves as a staging, roosting, foraging and breeding grounds for various waterbirds including migratory species,”  according to DENR wildlife experts.
As part of the conservation plan, DENR will empower the local communities on the sustainable use of the wetland and its resources.  That will give them livelihood to keep them away from destroying such environmental wonder.
“The bay supports fishing and other marine related livelihood which serves as the main source of subsistence for most of the coastal barangays.”
The DENR study will generate detailed bilogical and physiochemical data, and information on ecosystems services of Sibugay Wetlands.  It is also now completing Communication Education  Public and Awareness (CEPA) sessions and capability building of the community.
The project includes the wetlands’ assessment, distribution of maps of wetland resources, and CEPA within the coastal wetlands, and a workshop on the formulation of community-based wetland action plan.
The SCW project is funded by the Nagao Wetland Fund for P936,000.  Implementor also includes DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and the Provincial Environment & Natural Resources OFfice-Zamboanga Sibugay.
SCW also supports threatened species such as marine turtles, Whale shark, Sea Cow, and Saltwater Crocodile.  The vast mudflat is home to a variety of oysters, scallops, and other mullusks.
Endangered Far Eastern Curlew were recorded.  Banded-flagged birds were also documented with banding sites from Nan Pu mudflat, Bohai Bay, China; Chongming Dao, Shanghai, China, Khairusova and Belogovaya Rivers estuary, Russia; Australia, and Japan.
The  Ramsar List promotes conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.  It recognizes wetlands’ international significance based on its “ecology, botany, zoology, limnology (study of inland waters) or hydrology.” (Ramsar Convention).
Philippines’ other wetlands on the Ramsar List are Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary,
Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, Naujan Lake National Park, Negros Occidental, Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and Tubataha Reefs Natural Park. (MELODY AGUIBA)