By Sarwell Meniano
TACLOBAN CITY – The Regional Land Use Committee (RLUC) in Eastern Visayas has expressed support for the Leyte Sab-a Peatland Forest Restoration Initiative that seeks to conserve the biggest peatland in the province.
RLUC chair and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) 8 (Eastern Visayas) Director Bonifacio Uy said Leyte’s provincial government, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), would lead in convening the concerned local government units to discuss the establishment of the Leyte Sab-a Peatland as a Local Conservation Area through a provincial ordinance.
“Other concerned agencies also committed to present their plans in the Leyte Sab-a Peatland area in the next RLUC meeting to be integrated into the enhanced management plan of the DENR,” Uy said in a statement issued on Friday.
The four-year project aims to protect, restore, and manage the Leyte Sab-a Basin Peatland area in the towns of Palo, Alang-alang, Sta. Fe, and San Miguel, to sustain its ecosystem services.
The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction and Forest Foundation has been implementing the four-year Leyte Sab-a Peatland Forest Restoration Initiative since January 2018.
The PHP20 million project aims to produce legal and scientific studies, come up with a comprehensive map of the forest, and raise community and local leaders’ awareness of the importance of peatland forest.
Get The News Right Inside Your Inbox
Leyte’s Sab-a Basin exhibits diverse vegetation, having a wetland forest, boggy areas, sedge and grasslands, and diversity of endemic flora and fauna, having threatened animals and freshwater fish species found mostly in the wetland forest ecotype.
The basin absorbs and holds water during the rainy season, releasing it slowly to maintain base flows in the outflow rivers, according to Forest Foundation.
The Leyte Sab-a Basin peatland is a large catchment basin measuring 3,088 hectares, more than half of which has been reclaimed for agriculture.
The remaining 1,740 hectares in the eastern half of the basin consists of small remnant areas of swamp forest and grass peat swamp.
Peatlands are vital features of the local ecosystem as they help regulate water flow, helping minimize the risk of flooding and drought in low-lying areas. (READ: Nationwide peatland inventory in progress)
They also play an important role in long-term climate change mitigation by moderating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. (PNA)