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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
December, 1998 Vol. 1 No. 12

Saving the
Pangangan Island

The people of Pangangan Island off Calape, Bohol, have found in mangroves a natural way to protect from typhoon damage their islandís only road link to the mainland. Hereís their story.









angangan Island is luckier than most small Philippine islands. It is easily accessible by land, thanks to a 3.5-km causeway that connects it to Calape in mainland Bohol. But it wasnít always so. Community elders still speak of a time when, to get to the town proper of Calape, they had to walk about 4 km in the shallow waters that separate their island from the mainland (travel by boat is not possible except during high tide).

Relief came when the causeway was completed in the 1950s and, for the first time, the residents of Pangangan enjoyed the convenience of road travel. But not for long. Barely, two feet above water during high tide, the coral-and-limestone causeway was easily damaged by strong waves and typhoons, so it was often impassable. Indeed, saving the causeway seemed to many people an expensive and fruitless undertaking -- until two men showed them the way.

The P anganan Island Mangrove Causeway is exactly that -- a mangrove-lined causeway that has so far proven impervious to strong waves and typhoons. (Photo by C.E. Yao)

How they did it

Felipe Josol Ytac Sr. was the principal of Pangangan Elementary and High School when he and some student volunteers began planting in the late 1950s hundreds of mangrove propagules (mainly Rhizophora stylosa or bakauan bato) at the approach of the causeway on Pangangan.

This small beginning was enough to inspire Anastacio Toloy, who took over Ytacís post in 1961, to continue the project. Toloy rallied his male students, most of them Boy Scouts, from the third grade to high school to plant mangroves along the causeway, while the girls were assigned to collect 100 propagules each at a nearby natural stand at the south side of the causeway.

Soon, mangrove planting became an annual event for Toloy and his students, who religiously planted more propagules, usually during the "Scouting Month" of October. Heartened by their initial success, the rest of the community started to pitch in, making the planting a regular feature of their weekend picnics. Learning from experience, they began planting the propagules at a much closer spacing than the usual 1 meter which resulted in higher mortality and branchy trees. Such close spacing allowed the young trees to protect each other from strong waves and also enhanced height growth. The mangroves flourished and, by 1982, the plantation covered a total area of 6 hectares stretching to 2.5 km toward the mainland.

Showing the way

Today, both sides of the causeway, except for a short stretch near the mainland, are covered with mangroves -- the south side with natural stand consisting of bakauan, bungalon (Avicennia marina) and pagatpat (Sonneratia alba), and the north side with the communityís bakauan bato plantation. The still open portion of the causeway has been planted several times, but the plantings failed because of the presence in the area of crustacean and other marine borers which feed on the propagules. Even so, the residents of Pangangan have without a doubt saved their causeway. With hardly any assistance from outside, they have also given the rest of the world a showcase of the shoreline protectional value of mangroves, and the community spirit that made it happen.

Anastacio Toloy, one of the two men who started it all, has retired from teaching to devote more time to tree farming and fishing. He describes himself as a simple man with simple dreams, but he continues to show the same deep sense of civic duty that led him to persevere in his effort to protect the causeway so that his neighbors need never suffer long, wet hikes to the mainland. He is currently involved in the Department of Environment and Natural Resourcesí (DENR) Tree Farm Leasehold (TFL) project, which he is helping promote among coastal peopleís organizations (POs) through the DENRís Coastal Environment Program. Under the TFL scheme, a landowner leases his idle land to a PO for 10-15 year for development as a tree farm on a sharing arrangement (usually 20-80 or 30-70, with the developer -- the PO -- having the bigger share).

Meanwhile, Panganganís success continues to breed more success. More people have become involved in the planting effort, not purely to reinforce the islandís shoreline protection, but also for wood production and the enhancement of marine habitats. As a result of their effort, Pangangan Island today is protected by a mangrove plantation that spreads to a total area of about 54 hectares.

Boy Scouts and students turn to mangrove power to protect the Pangangan Island Causeway from strong waves and typhoons.

About Pangangan Island     

Lying 4.5 km off the east coast of Calape, Bohol, Pangangan Island has a total area of 940 hectares, 115 hectares of which consists of mangroves. The land is flat and characterized by sparse vegetation (some coconut trees, corn and cassava) and mostly vacant and undeveloped areas dominated by limestone outcrops on red sandy soil. The island has eight barangays, all of them coastal and inhabited mostly by fishermen and part-time farmers.

Pangangan has been declared a Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve under the Presidential Proclamation No.2152 dated December 29, 1981. It is covered by two coastal management projects of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources: the Coastal Environmental Program and the Coastal Resource Management Project, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

Another point of interest in the island is the presence, along the south side of the causeway, of a rare bakauan hybrid, believed to be the Rhizophora x lamarkii Montr, an infertile cross-breed of bakauan bato and bakauan lalaki (R. apiculata).

Some recommendations for the enhancement of the Mangrove Causeway management

  • Expand planting -- some portions of the plantation are very narrow (10m wide) and should be expanded to reinforce protection.
  • Replant unplanted portion of the causeway with potted, 6-month-old to 2-year-old seedlings. Such older seedlings are likely unpalatable to crustacean or marine borers or too tough to eat.
  • Establish a mangrovetum (a mangrove plantation consisting of several species in one block) for educational, research and seed production purposes. This mangrovetum can also serve as an ecotourism or study destination for botanical and mangrove enthusiasts. The three bakauans (bakaun bato, bakuan babae (R. mucronata) and bakauan lalaki) may be planted in adjacent blocks and marked with a signage indicating spacing, date planted, common and scientific names and possible uses. Other species may also be planted to improve biodiversity.
  • Conduct studies in phenology of the suspected bakauan hybrid (believed to be Rhizophora x lamarkii Montr) -- see also Wanted: The Philippinesí Fourth Bakauan. Flowering should be monitored for propagule development for trial planting along the causeway.
  • Put up billboard along the causeway indicating, among others, date of planting, spacing, participants (grade level, section,etc.)
  • Construct catwalks in strategic points so visitors can fully appreciate the plantation from the seaward side.


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