The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) held on October 17-20 in Mandurriao, Iloilo City the Abandoned, Undeveloped and Underutilized Fishponds (AUUF) 101 Training and Workshop.

DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Livino B. Duran, in his message welcomes the participants in the city of love and wishes for the success of the five-day training workshop.

“Those areas occupied by our mangrove species should be developed to become a mangrove forest as part of balancing our ecology and preparation for our future,” RED Duran said.

The activity was held in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development’s Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans and Landscapes (SIBOL) project — a five-year project in the Philippines which aims to improve natural resource management through promoting science-based decision-making, improving economic incentives, and strengthening environmental law enforcement.

Sixty-five participants from DENR, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and SIBOL participated. The training and workshop included lectures and discussions led by renowned experts on fishponds, fishpond lease agreements, AUUF reversions, and mangrove rehabilitation among others. The discussions emphasized the problem on thousands of hectares of AUUFs in the Philippines which could have been reforested or reverted to mangrove areas.

"These areas have become priorities for rehabilitation because of climate change. But how will we rehabilitate, if they have been converted to other uses — as settlements, build up areas, and worst, private properties," DENR Policy, Planning and Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects Assistant Secretary Marcial C. Amaro Jr. remarked during the closing program of the activity. He added that since DENR is now well-informed of the concerns on AUUF, they can start proactively responding to the issue.

The participants identified issues on jurisdiction, overlapping or conflicting administrative orders and policies, and lack of a clear process in AUUF reversion. At present, BFAR still has jurisdiction over many of the non-operational fishponds so DENR cannot act on reforesting or converting them into mangrove areas.

As an initial action, DENR, in consultation with BFAR, drafted a Department Administrative Order (DAO) on AUUF Reversion. SIBOL provided technical assistance in terms of consolidating the concerns of DENR offices across all regions in the Philippines, and incorporating them into the draft DAO.

DENR's initiative, in collaboration with SIBOL, to revert AUUFs back to the department's jurisdiction and convert them into forestlands or mangrove areas contributes to the larger goal of speeding up the process of restoring degraded ecosystems in response to the impacts of climate change. /SIBOL / DENR 6