Wovoka Visits The Largest Contiguous Mangrove Reserve in the Philippines

July 14, 2023

A century ago, the Philippines had approximately 450,000 hectares of mangroves, yet in 2019 – even after many reforestation efforts, its coverage is only around 227,808 hectares. Thousands of hectares have been destroyed and converted into other agricultural uses, while many others have been affected by deforestation. To resolve this ongoing threat, countless studies have backed the role of mangroves in our ecosystem and their potential in carbon sequestration and climate change. Fortunately, the potential to protect and rehabilitate these mangrove forests in the country is large, especially with the growing interest from both local and foreign investors.

Among the many mangrove forests in the Philippines, the Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve in Siargao is the largest contiguous reserve spanning over a 4,871-hectare block. It houses 27 of the 80 mangrove species in the world, with these dominated by the Rhizophora (Rhizophora apiculata) mangrove species and some fauna species such as the Philippine saltwater crocodile and Philippine Cockatoo. 

Drone shot of a portion of the Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve taken with Wovoka’s DJI Mavic3 Multispectral drone by our Geospatial Analyst, Khris.

One of the rarest mangrove species, locally known as bikya, can also be found in the mangrove reserve. It is distinguished by its flowering nature, often spotted with white flowers in bloom.

Bikya mangrove in Del Carmen Siargao - Wovoka
A close-up shot of the rare Bikya mangrove species found only in the Sugba Lagoon area of Siargao.

The Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve has been gaining national attention after being recognized as the country’s ninth wetland of international importance. This recognition is a precursor to the reserve’s nomination to be included in the global network of wetlands known as the Ramsar Sites. Currently, the Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve is in line to be formally listed as a Ramsar site under the 1971 Ramsar Convention, an inter-governmental environmental treaty established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. This has many benefits, including international recognition, conservation and protection, promotion of sustainable use, and access to funding opportunities. 

Ramping Up Mangrove Conservation

Beyond current efforts, Siargao has continuously been working on mangrove projects for more than two decades. As of October 2022, Siargao celebrated its 26th year of being a protected area under the Siargao Island Protected Landscapes and Seascapes (SIPLAS), a programme focusing on preserving biodiversity. SIPLAS comprises Siargao, the Bucas Grande Island, and islets around them spanning over a total land area of 62,796 hectares. As a protected area, the state commits to protect, preserve, and rehabilitate the Siargao Group of Islands and its respective communities to uphold its integrity for the future Filipino generations. 

Over the past decade, its LGU has been proactive in pushing for mangrove conservation, especially after Typhoon Odette ravaged the island in 2021. Estimates suggest that the typhoon left damages amounting to roughly Php 20 billion in destroyed homes, public facilities, and infrastructure.

A photo taken by the Philippine Coast Guard shows how Typhoon Odette devastated Siargao.

While it may be hard to imagine, this estimated amount is already somewhat lower than it could have been as the island was significantly protected by its vast mangrove coverage. The Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve, which is sprawled across the island, was able to protect the local communities from further devastation. In return, however, a significant portion of the mangroves were destroyed and are yet to be rehabilitated. 

During a boat ride taken by the Wovoka team, they saw patches of destroyed mangroves as a result of Typhoon Odette.

As our team concluded our visit to Siargao, we saw an opportunity to work with the Del Carmen municipal government in seeking investors who are willing to support the restoration and furtherance of the mangrove reserve. To date, they were able to reforest a total mangrove area of 600 hectares, and are looking to continue growing this number over the next few years. Del Carmen mayor, Mayor Coro, expressed his enthusiasm about finding partners in development who are genuinely interested in the Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve’s potential. With enough support, it is possible to return the mangrove reserve to its original condition before Typhoon Odette wiped a portion of its coverage, and even take it further to increase productivity in terms of livelihood generation and carbon sequestration. 

A photo of the Wovoka team with Mayor Alfredo Coro II’s team after a fruitful discussion of a potential partnership and other opportunities for collaboration.

If you’d like to learn more about supporting the Del Carmen restoration effort and the size of the potential carbon finance, please get in touch with our Senior Carbon Associate Tin at tin@wovoka.io.  You may also watch the interview with our co-founder Dr. Lee Pearson, Senior Carbon Associate Tin Dalida, and the Del Carmen Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Gina Barquilla here.

Get insights on nature-based solutions in Southeast Asia!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Monthly email – No spam. Ever.