AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People supports House Bill 7754, which was recently passed in the third and final reading at the House of Representatives. The said bill aims to amend Section 43 of the Presidential Decree 705 or the “Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines”. Under this bill, the period needed for the reforestation of unutilized and abandoned fishponds will be reduced from five years to three years [1, 2].
“AGHAM welcomes this proposed amendment as it will lead to the reforestation and rehabilitation of our coastal ecosystems,” said Jerwin Baure, public information officer of AGHAM. “At the beginning of the 1900s, the Philippines used to have an estimated area of 450,000 hectares of mangrove forests, but around 50% of our mangrove area has been lost through the decades due to fishpond development. If these fishponds have been unutilized and abandoned for several years, it is only imperative that these would be reverted into mangrove areas.”
The reversion of unutilized and abandoned fishponds is also stated in the Fisheries Code of 1998. However, this has not been the case in the past few years. Many fishponds have been subjected to land-use conversion. Examples of these would be fishponds in Bulacan that have been purchased by San Miguel Corporation for its New Manila International Airport project. Fishponds in Cavite are also being reclaimed for coastal development projects, as reported previously by the fisherfolk organization Pamalakaya. “House Bill 7754 should include a strong provision that prohibits land-use conversion of unutilized and abandoned fishponds for commercial, residential and other use,” added Baure. “The bill must strictly mandate that these fishponds should be reverted to mangrove forests, and those who violate these must be penalized.”
Mangroves are important coastal ecosystems as they serve as habitats, feeding grounds and nursery areas for marine organisms and birds. By supporting marine biodiversity, mangroves also support food security and the livelihood of coastal ecosystems. Additionally, mangrove areas can also be utilized for aquasilviculture, a sustainable aquaculture system wherein fish and crabs are cultured in mangrove areas, thus adding income to fisherfolk and small-scale fish farmers. As we face a worsening climate crisis, mangroves also play a vital role in sequestering carbon dioxide and providing protection for coastal communities from storm surges. Now more than ever, the government must immediately act to protect and rehabilitate our environment. ###
 Inquirer.net (2023, May 29) House approves bill on rehabilitation of unused fish ponds. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1776401/fwd-house-oks-bill-rehabilitating-unutilized-fishponds
 Philippine News Agency (2023, May 30) Bills to address climate change threats gain traction in House. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1202462