SEVEN years after the validation of the Leyte Sab-a Basin as the country’s second confirmed peatland, the government will complete the survey of another peatland in Barangay Dolongan, Basey, Samar this year.
Armida Andres, Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau country coordinator for peatland said that the area in Samar will be included in the map of confirmed peatlands in the country.
Final peatland map for the country will be available this year, with the completion a four-year assessment of the estimated 70,000 hectares peatland cover in the Philippines.
The area became known as peatland area citing the 1975 soil survey in Samar.
The ongoing assessment, which started in 2010, also covers swamp forests in Upland Peat, Northern Luzon; Ultramafic Hills, Surigao; Ligawasan Marsh, Brgy. Tan-ag Ilaya, Lopez, Quezon; Sitio Balumbong, Brgy. Perez, Calauan, Laguna; Naujan Lake Marshland, Oriental Mindoro; Pag-asa Peatland; Talacogon Peatland; and Bunawan Peatland.
“We were told by the Asean Peatland Forests Project that there are about 70,000 hectares of peatland in the country, which is way beyond the 20,000 hectares confirmed peatland in our map,” Andres said in an interview.
The country has two confirmed peatlands: Agusan Marsh with more than 16,000 hectares and the Leyte Sab-a Basin with nearly 4,000 hectares. Both areas were confirmed in the 2005 validation.
“The map of confirmed peatlands would guide policy makers and implementers to effectively manage these swamp forest - when left ignored - can contribute to wild forest fire, flooding, and haze pollution,” she added.
Andres said that there is practically zero knowledge on peatlands at the start of the Asean Peatland Management Strategy (APMS) implementation in 2005.
“We really need help in identifying and verifying where exactly the reported peatlands are and in building its capacity for peatlands management,” she added.
The country started its participation in the consultation workshop for the development of the Asean Peatland Management Strategy (APMS) held in Malaysia in May 2005.
The assessment is part of the Asean Peatland Forest Project funded through the International Fund for Agriculture Development and Global Environment Facility.
Peatlands are wetland ecosystems where partially decomposed organic matter accumulates over thousands of years under water logged conditions to form carbon-rich soil, or “peat.”
Over the past 30 years, peat swamp forests have been increasingly cleared, drained and degraded as a result of unsustainable forestry and agricultural practices.
An estimated 13-million hectares in Southeast Asia was impacted and often degraded by legal and illegal logging activities which often involve drainage of the peat during the extraction process, and over exploitation of forest resources.
Peatland fires and their associated haze have had the most severe negative impact on the environment, socio-economic and health. (Sarwell Q. Meniano)