The elders of Barangay Papaya often tell stories of how abundant fish were in the days of old. They would recount how, in less than an hour, they could get a boatload of fish barely a hundred meters from shore. This cornucopian bounty was due to the coastal ecosystems along the coves of Barangay Papaya. Expansive coral reefs, lush seagrass beds and sprawling mangrove forests all served as habitats for various types of marine life.
Amongst these ecosystems, mangroves, which are the most visible, are also the easiest to access since they are situated right along the shorelines of the coves. These mangrove forests – like all other forests – served as nesting, breeding and feeding grounds for both marine life and other terrestrial fauna such as birds. Mangrove forests, along with sea grass beds, estuaries and coral reefs, form the coastal ecosystem, one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. One hectare of healthy mangrove forest, in particular, provides approximately 500 kilos of fishery products per hectare annually.
After World War II, when the war-torn country started rebuilding, one of the government's programs for the fisheries sector was the conversion of mangrove forests into fishponds. Mangrove forests were then seen as idle and unproductive areas and were converted into aquaculture projects - supposedly to become more profitable.
This resulted in the destruction of two-thirds of all mangrove forests in the country. The destruction of the mangrove forests, along with the destruction of other coastal ecosystems contributed to the rapid decline of fish catch from the 1970’s up to the present. Before, an hour of fishing would gain you a boatload of fish. Today, the average is less than a kilo per hour of fishing.
The same story is told of Hamilo prior to the development initiative undertaken by Costa del Hamilo (CdHI), the developer of SMIC's first phase beach-anchored project known as Pico de Loro. Due to massive destruction of the mangroves for charcoal and fishpond, the original 45 hectares of lush mangroves dwindled to only 18 hectares.
Costa del Hamilo, with the assistance of WWF, partnered with a grassroot organization known as Kaagapay ng Mamamayan para sa Kalikasan or KMK. From the 18 hectares, the group has planted 6 hectares last year. This year, another 5 hectares is targeted. Aside from planting, KMK is protecting the "propagules" or mangrove seedlings till they reach maturity through volunteer patrolling and continuous education among costal villagers on the positive effects of the mangrove on the food chain and environmental preservation. The group plans to have this as an annual initiative to rehabilitate its sensitive wetlands.
Part of a greater move to rehabilitate the entire coastline of Hamilo Coast, the Papaya community, along with CdHI and WWF have conducted information campaigns on the importance of the mangrove forests, as well as the other ecosystems to coastal communities. The barangay council has passed a local ordinance banning the destruction of mangroves for charcoal-production. Regular monitoring of the mangrove areas will be a critical component of the initiative. In mid 2008, training was conducted by DENR to teach the community how to make charcoal briquettes from waste instead of trees to combat the soaring prices of oil and LPG.
From a mangrove and reef assessment done by WWF in 2007, the mangrove forest in Pico de Loro Cove was identified as possible boardwalks for educational mangrove tours due to the presence of old-growth mangroves – some trunks being so large that it would take more than two people to hug the tree completely – as well as a relatively untouched area with meter-high mounds of mud erected by mudcrabs.
The mangrove forests in both Hamilo and Pico de Loro Coves are also home to numerous bird species. An initial survey conducted by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines in Pico de Loro Cove revealed 44 bird species - including egrets, kingfishers and coucals, proving that below or above the water, these submerged forests are bastions of life.
Marine and wetlands conservation effort is and will be a strategic component to the over-all development thrust of the Costa del Hamilo project in Hamilo as it believes that a healthy balance between nature and physical development would be key to the area's long-term sustainability.
Hamilo Coast is a project of SM Investments Corporation. SM commemorates its 50th anniversary with a series of events celebrating the company's milestones and achievements. SM's 50th anniversary celebrations, dubbed "50 Years of Serving Millions," will also include special promotional activities, exhibitions, and other commemorative events.
For further details and inquiries, log on to www.hamilocoast.com, e-mail email@example.com, or call (632) 8580333, (632) 8580388, (632) 8191675 or (632) 8191673. You may also visit the Hamilo Coast Showroom located at the 4th Floor of SM Makati.