Giant clams to fight insurgency

Giant-clamsThe Armed Forces is deploying 200 giant clams to Bohol to help prevent the resurgence of New People’s Army in the province which had been declared insurgency-free in 2009.

A C-130 plane was due to transport to Bohol an initial 100 clams cultured from a University of the Philippine marine laboratory in Bolinao, Pangasinan, last week,  said Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Garcia, Deputy Chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office.

He said military trucks fetched the clams from Bolinao and brought them to San Fernando, La Union, where the Air Force plane was waiting to fly the endangered species to Bohol where they will be seeded by military divers.

Garcia said another 100 giant clams will be transported by the military to the province in June as part of the project with the Bohol provincial government and the UP Marine Science Institute (MSI).

Giant clams “attract fish because they have hard shells that serve as sub-straits for marine organisms to settle down,”  said Prof. Sylvia Suzanne Licuanan of MSI in Camp Aguinaldo.

“They are like artificial reef though live organisms and as long as they are kept alive, they will continue to improve the marine biodiversity in our seas,” she said. “Giant clams have also been used as a tool for marine conservation.”

Licuanan said giant claims are “very attractive organisms” and can draw the attention of tourists. “Divers appreciate finding giant clams in the reefs so our divers pay just to see giant clams in our seas.”

The size of the clams to be brought to Bohol range from 40 to 60 centimeters and their age is nine to 11 years.

Garcia said the giant clams that will be seeded will provide additional livelihood to Bohol locals.

“It will address security issues because it will entail additional livelihood for the people. It will be a major component of our Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) because people won’t be recruited by the New People’s Army and will stay in the folds of the law,” he said.

He was referring to the IPSP Bayanihan, the military’s blueprint in winning the war against insurgency. The campaign plan was crafted by Garcia when he was the AFP deputy chief of staff for operations.

The threats to national security raise the issue of poverty, the reason why insurgents are pursuing revolution, he said. “If we can provide livelihood to the people, we can lessen the reason for them to take up arms against the government.”

Garcia said the seeding of the giant clams is also in line with the military’s thrust on environmental protection and preservation which he said is “one of our expanded roles in nation building.”

Bohol provincial agriculturist Liza Quirog said the giant clams will be seeded in five of the 172 marine protected areas in the province, including in Panglao and Balikasag islands which are  popular dive sites in the country.

“This is an added value to tourism,” she said, adding the clam sancturaries will be managed by the Marine Protected Area Council which is composed of fishermen groups.

“They can use this as an opportunity to gain income if they allow tourists to swim, snorkel or dive, to get near (these clams) but not touch them. This will increase their income and livelihood of the fishermen,” she added.

The giant clams also attract other marine species and help preserve or rejuvenate the corals where fish live. “It will enhance biodiversity in the area and improve the livelihoods of the people,” said Quirog.

She said studies show fish populations have decreased in Bohol because of coral reef destruction. Fish in the rich waters off Bohol also attract fishers from other regions.

“We know that giant clams are fish recruiters and would heal and enhance the biodiversity in an area,” Quirog said, adding the project is “a major intervention for livelihood and poverty reduction.”

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