The Sasmuan Coastal Wetland in Pampanga (SPCW) has earned an international recognition. It is now a Ramsar Site or Wetland of International Importance.
The declaration was recently made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) based in Quezon City and the Ramsar secretariat based in Gland, Switzerland.
DENR 3 Director Paquito Moreno Jr., said the SPCW is the eighth Ramsar Site in the country and first in Central Luzon. It covers more than 3,500 hectares of coastal waters and four barangays in Sasmuan town in Pampanga.
“We are honored and fortunate that the annual celebration of World Wetland Day has become more significant and special because the SPCW is now officially declared as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’,” he said.
Moreno said the SPCW met four of the nine criteria of Ramsar Site before it was considered as internationally important. “We met criteria 2 and 3, which means that SPCW supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities, and play a big role in maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region,” he added.
Moreno said SPCW also met criteria 5 and 6 indicating that it regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds, and one percent of individuals in a biogeographic population of one species or subspecies of waterbirds.
“SPCW is a vital component of our environment and its declaration as Ramsar site is an integral part of our strategies in cleaning and rehabilitating our Manila Bay,” he said.
Laudemir Salac, Pampanga’s Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) chief, said more than 80,000 migratory birds belonging to 63 species have been observed in SPCW during the January 2021 Asian Waterbird Census (AWC).
DENR records show that Chinese egret, spotted greenshank, Asian dowitcher, Philippine duck, and grey-backed tailorbird are some of the species frequently visiting SPCW. A Jansen study in 2018 found out that 46% of the water bird species in the Philippines were observed in SPCW.
“We really need to protect this important ecosystem because of numerous benefits to our local communities and to our biodiversity,” Moreno said, as he thanked the Pampanga and Sasmuan local governments for their support in all DENR programs in Pampanga.
The 405-hectare Sasmuan Bangkung Malapad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (SBMCHEA) is one of the valuable ecosystems found within the SPCW, a vital habitat for migratory birds and mangrove species like the Avicennia rumphiana locally known as Api-api.
SBMCHEA which is part of the large and enclosed sea of Manila Bay, is a mangrove islet in Pasak River that was formed by the volcanic sediments from the 1991 Mount Pinatubo’s devastating eruption.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty of which the Philippines is a signatory. It provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
The Convention was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states worldwide have acceded to become “Contracting Parties.”