Relief efforts following typhoon onslaughts are just plan Z in a country like the Philippines with a geographical location susceptible to tropical cyclones.
Because thousands of lives and properties have been lost from calamities, the target should be making the entire archipelago climate-resilient instead of repetitive band-aid solutions that only lead to more national debt and a low morale among Filipinos.
Yet how exactly do we make climate resiliency happen? By preserving the peatlands.
Peatland refers to the combination of peat soil and wetland.
In the Philippines, there are two confirmed peatlands: Agusan Marsh which is the larger of the Leyte Sab-a Basin, measuring approximately 3,088 hectares in elongated form.
Peatlands are the “most valuable ecosystems on Earth,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Being the largest terrestrial carbon storage despite covering only three percent of the Earth’s surface, a peatland is significant in pursuing a low-carbon and circular economy allowing biodiversity to thrive. Its vegetation also provides potable drinking water.
And in a typhoon-prone country like the Philippines, peatlands can help minimize flooding by preventing seawater intrusion.
The two Philippine peatlands have proven to be not only an environmental tool but also a striking natural aesthetic with impressive views of vast wetlands.
Protection with peatlands
Initiatives to sustain peatlands have been around since 2010, heralded by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but it is not enough for a full-blown awareness on how these lands are beneficial when restored and detrimental when destroyed.
This prompted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) to launch its peatland conservation program.
The program features the preservation of Caimpugan Peatland in Agusan Marsh through technological means provided by PLDT-Smart and is expected to cultivate more undiscovered peatlands around the country.
“Peatlands matter,” American actor and political activist Alec Baldwin remarked during the virtual launch of the program.
Meanwhile, praising the DENR-PLDT tandem in this project, Ramsar secretary general Martha Urrego said: “This partnership is an example of how both the government and the private sector can work together using innovative solutions and modern technology to enable and scale up the wetlands for a better future.”