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Growing the ‘great wall of mangroves’

Breaking from their norm of manufacturing cement and aggregates that are used to build concrete walls for their customers, forty teammates from Republic’s Makati office and Bulacan, Norzagaray and LCLC plants journeyed to Malolos, Bulacan, to join community members, LGU, and DENR officials to fulfill the promise that the company made last Christmas to rehabilitate the mangroves that help protect the Bulacan coast.

Growing where land and sea meet, mangroves bear the brunt of ocean-borne typhoons. With trunks that rise above water level and roots that grow out from branches and go deep into the water, mangroves protect coastal areas from natural hazards such as storms, tsunamis and coastal erosion.

The role of mangroves in protecting our coasts has been widely acknowledged. Their interwoven roots play multiple roles – trapping garbage and keeping these from reaching the ocean while also serving as a nesting place and breeding ground for fish and other aquatic animals. Mangrove forests are also important nesting and migratory sites for hundreds of bird species, as well as home to a wide array of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

In the winter issue of World Wildlife Magazine, a publication of WWF, one of the world’s largest conservation organizations, WWF affirms the “amazing capacity of mangroves to store carbon”, and claims that “mangroves may be one of nature’s best defenses against a changing climate.”

But we are losing mangrove cover far too fast. So in line with the second pillar of its sustainability program, iSTAND4, which is climate change mitigation, Republic Cement, with the support of Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado, has partnered with the Bulacan Lowland and Upland People’s Organization, DENR, Malolos municipal government and Bulacan provincial government to help restore mangrove ecosystems by growing thousands of red mangroves endemic to the area on a stretch of the Malolos coast. Members of BantayDagat-Malolos are also helping protect and maintain the mangrove propagules to ensure that these survive to maturity.

The project is the first public- private conservation partnership in Malolos, a feat that was highlighted by Malolos Vice Mayor Gilbert Gatchalian in the touching message that he gave to all the volunteers, where he thanked them for being the first to support the city’s dream of building a “great wall of mangroves” that will serve as the first line of defense for the city’s coastal communities against the rising tide of climate change.

This is the third mangrove site that the Republic Teams are helping rehabilitate, with the Iligan Plant Team volunteering in the rehabilitation of Bayug Island in Mindanao and the Danao Team doing the same in their area in the Visayas.

As Republic’s Team of eco-warriors left the planting site past midday, they could see mangrove propagules next to bamboo support posts covering a wide swathe of the coast. Boarding their boats that will bring them back to the mainland, some could only whisper an eco-warrior’s prayer:

May the winds bend but not break you

May the tides rise but not drown you

May you grow strong and tall and protect our coastal communities as our Bantay-Dagat team watches over you.