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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, March 12, 2018
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Negros-Panay bridge
threat to dolphins: study
BY MARK L. GARCIA

 

An academic research center in Bacolod City warns that the building of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge will threaten the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins, as the construction will cut through its core habitat at the Guimaras Strait near Pulupandan town.

The University of Saint La Salle-University Research Center said in a press release that Irrawady Dolphins (Orcaellabrevirostris) are facing a potential impact of the looming plan of constructing the bridge as it is expected to cut through the dolphin’s core habitat in the coastal waters of Pulupandan.

Mark de la Paz, URC research associate, said yesterday that the eyed construction is one of the threats faced by these dolphins declared as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) December last year.

“Among the threats to these dolphins are pollution from industrial firms, entanglement on fishing nets, boat strikes, and habitat destructions,” he said, as the press release said that the recent population of these dolphins is more or less 20.

The press release said that this number came from a recent study of scientists from USLS and Silliman University.

Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar earlier said that preparatory work for this 19-kilometer Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge will begin this year. If completed, this will be the longest bridge in the country, he added.

“A full feasibility study (for the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge) is being done now through a grant from China, they have volunteered to do a full blown study,” Villar said in an interview December last year during the inauguration of Araneta- Magsaysay flyover in Bacolod City.

Negros Occidental Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Edgardo Rostata also said yesterday that the proposed construction of the bridge will still undergo various consultations like environment assessment activities to ensure it will not affect any marine habitats.

‘ENDANGERED’

URC’s press release said that the Irrawaddy dolphins are an endangered species of marine mammal known to inhabit isolated estuarine and coastal habitats in the Indo-West Pacific Region. Last December, IUCN lifted the Irrawaddy dolphins’ conservation status from “vulnerable” to “endangered”.

These dolphins are known to reside in the coastal waters of Bago City and Pulupandan, declared as a protected marine area through the partnerships of these academic institutions and the local government of Bago, it said.

“With very few isolated populations left, Irrawaddy dolphins are threatened by human activities in their habitats, especially the potential entanglement in fishing gears, boat strikes, habitat degradation, and marine pollution,” the press release stated.

CONTINUED PARTNERSHIP

De la Paz also said that to pursue the partnership to save Irrawady Dolphins, USLS and Bago City signed a memorandum of agreement last month to continue doing researches and community development in the coastal areas of the two local government units.

He said that they are now starting to conduct surveys and community monitoring in the four barangays of Pulupandan and two barangays in Bago, which are all coastal communities.

The study is called the Sustainability of Marine Protected Areas for Irrawady Dolphins in Bago and Pulupandan, he said. The press release also said that the recent agreement covers cooperation in conducting research and implementing livelihood projects with the local fisherfolk of Bago.

“Hopefully, this will provide an alternative livelihood for the fishermen and set-up a management plan for the marine protected area,” de la Paz said.

The signing of agreement was done by USLS President and Chancellor Br. Joaquin Martinez, and Mayor Nicholas Yuloin Bago City. It was witnessed by USLS Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Romeo Teruel and Bago City Vice Mayor Ramon Torres.

ASSESSMENT STILL NEEDED

Rostata also said that despite this potential threat, he is confident that the construction of the bridge will undergo many consultations and studies before it will be constructed, as it might pass through a protected area.

“It will not be automatic (the construction). All concerns should be first addressed before the projectis pushed through,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Experts from different sectors will be called to talk about the proposed project and if there are negative impacts, it will be considered and will be noted in the documents of the project, he added.

Rostata said these impacts will be considered in the design and engineering of the bridge as the flora and the fauna will still be seen through environment assessment that might be done by PENRO or the Department of Environment and Natural Resources itself.

“The process of consultations will be transparent since they will go to the LGUs, non-government organizations, civil society organizations, development councils and executive committee of the National Economic and Development Authority,” he said.

He added that NGOs, and the academe are also encouraged to conduct more studies related to these proposed infrastructure and their effects on the marine environment of the province.*MLG

 

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