BY BOY RYAN B. ZABAL
KALIBO, Aklan – An outbreak of pest infestation in the mangrove plantations of Kalibo Bakhawan Eco-Park, considered as the Philippines’ most successful mangrove reforestation project, is alarming the coastal communities here.
Atty. Allen Salas Quimpo, chairman of Kalibo Save the Mangrove Association (Kasama) said the mangrove swamp forest areas are suffering from widespread infestation caused by insect larva of unknown species.
“The infestation could spread in other mangrove areas in Aklan. Ten years ago, we handpicked the larvae and pupas and buried them in the ground when there was massive infestation in the Bakhawan. We are taking steps now to address the situation,” he said over DyRU Super Radyo Kalibo yesterday.
Quimpo said foresters have inspected the mangrove areas and found out that 20 to 30 hectares of the Kalibo Bakhawan are affected.
The award-winning reforestation project, a 78-mangrove plantation in Barangay New Buswang, this town, is a sanctuary and hatchery ground for sea creatures such as oysters, prawns, crabs, fish and lobsters and protects the coastal areas from typhoons and erosion.
Quimpo, also the executive director of Aklan Rivers Development Council, said he will seek the help of the local governments in monitoring and reporting signs of pest infestation in a periodic basis.
“The mangrove trees showed signs of damage by stem-boring moth larva. The infestation threatens the marine plant ecosystems in Bakhawan,” he added.
Derlito Rico, environment management specialist of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here, said the antata-eo or larvae can be removed by hand although this is a tedious process.
Insecticides may also be sprayed but he said this could endanger marine life thriving in the eco-park.
Bakhawan Eco-Park is a brainchild of Quimpo. He was approached by then Environment Secretary Jun Factoran sometime in the late 1980s to do the reforestation of the first 50 hectares. Quimpo was the mayor of Kalibo at that time.
Seeing the need to forge a community-based partnership for the project, Quimpo tapped the USWAG Development Foundation, Inc., composed of socially-concerned Aklanons. They, in turn, tapped 30 families from Brgy. New Buswang to do the initial planting, and organized them into the Kalibo Save the Mangrove Association or KASAMA.
The DENR first detected the infestation in the mangrove forests of Capiz. It quickly spread