The role of wetlands on reducing disaster risks comes to fore as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) leads the country’s celebration of World Wetlands Day (WWD) on Thursday, February 2.

Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim said that this year’s theme, "Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction," highlights the role of wetlands as a natural safeguard against disasters, especially those brought on by climate change.

"The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts," Lim pointed out. "We cannot emphasize enough how our wetlands can help protect communities, especially the poor who are most vulnerable and least resilient."

Lim noted that the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, recently cited how the frequency of disasters worldwide has doubled, with 90 percent of them water-related.

"Wetlands, which include mangroves, are good natural buffers against stronger and more frequent typhoons, possible storm surges, and sea level rise," Lim explained.

She added: "They also ensure water supply in times of drought. The ecological benefits of wetlands empower the poor communities and improve their resilience to these occurrences."

"Just recently, the Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area (NOCWCA) was designated as the 7th Ramsar site in the Philippines, and selected as the 4th Flyway Network Site (FNS) under the East Asian-Australian Flyway Partnership. These twin developments are recognition of the country’s sustained efforts in conserving wetlands with international importance,” Lim said.

February 2 of each year is WWD, marking the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971. The convention was named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where it was adopted.

Established to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet, WWD was first celebrated in 1997 and has grown remarkably since then. In 2016, WWD was celebrated in at least 59 countries.

The BMB, which leads the implementation of the Ramsar Convention in the country, has announced activities in this year’s celebration of WWD.

In partnership with the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands (SCPW), the BMB will be launching the Atlas of Philippine Inland Wetlands and Classified Caves and the SCPW module on wetlands for youth eco-camps.

The bureau will also host the Ramsar Roundtable Discussion on Wetlands and Disaster Risk Reduction.

Thirty student-leaders and five teachers from Talisay, Batangas will take part in "youth eco-camp" on February 13-15 to be held in a farmhouse resort in Talisay. They represent five selected schools from the town, namely, San Guillermo Academy, Talisay Polytechnic Institute, Talisay High School, Balas Buco Sta. Maria National High School, and Talisay School of Agriculture.

The eco-camp is co-organized by DENR Region 4A, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Batangas, Taal Volcano Protected Landscape Office, municipal government of Talisay, and Department of Education-Talisay District Office.

Meanwhile, the BMB is inviting the youth aged 18-25 years old to join the Wetland Photo Contest organized by the Ramsar Convention, in partnership with Star Alliance Biosphere Connection (SABC).

Interested contestants must submit photos depicting how any type of wetland helps in coping with extreme weather events. Photos must be uploaded to from February 2 to March 2, 2017.

The winner will be given the chance to visit any Wetland of International Importance or Ramsar site, courtesy of SABC. ###