Giant clams ‘re-wilding’ waters near Semirara mine site
It so happens the Consunji-led company has discovered a way to prepare the future of both its host communities and island environment, even if it’s one borne out of coal mine operations.
In 2006, the company released 150 pieces of the Tridacna gigas, an endangered species of giant clams, near the waters of Panian mine on Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique province. Citing research, the firm says these giant clams cannot thrive in polluted waters, thus serving as an indicator of the health of the bodies of water near the mine.
Little did management know the reseeding activity would eventually present the company an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of the endangered giant clams and to the rehabilitation of the reefs in the area—mitigating the mine’s impact on the lives of the people and the environment.
Betting on the symbiotic relationship of the Tridacnids with corals and fishes, Semirara seeded giant clams and found these serve as catalyst for improving biodiversity in the Semirara Marine Sanctuary. The giant clams were filter-feeders, or they cleaned the seawaters.
The giant clams eventually attracted other marine species, subsequently rehabilitating the reefs, Semirara says.
The company says this is effectively “re-wilding” the fishing environment in the area. The clams’ large, hard shells literally “build” reefs, providing fishes and soft corals with protected spaces within which to hide and lay eggs.
Through the help of National Scientist Dr. Edgardo Gomez in June 2014, the company-funded Semirara Marine Hatchery Laboratory exchanged resources with the Marine Ecology Center of Sabah, Malaysia. The latter brought in the Hippopus porcellanus (giant porcelain clams) in order to help boost the biodiversity in the island.
Today, seven species are under the care of the laboratory. Semirara mining says the rich biodiversity in the area means reestablishing fishing as the island’s main source of livelihood.
By end-2014, the facility would have reseeded 21,145 of the 85,975 giant clams born in Semirara. Giant clams spawned at the Semirara Marine Hatchery Laboratory are reseeded at the Semirara Marine Sanctuary.
The firm has also drawn recognition for its work in the island.
“Our company was named first runner-up in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) category of the 2015 Asean Energy Awards in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for our reef rehabilitation efforts in Semirara Island,” company president and COO Victor A. Consunji said at the company’s stockholders meeting in end April.
He said the company wants to create a corporate culture anchored on good governance practices. In 2015, the company was included in the top 50 publicly listed Philippine companies that scored high based on the Asean Corporate Governance Scorecard.
“We envision to continue providing holistic support and development of our host communities through our CSR initiatives for sustainability. After surviving—with no casualty—the strongest typhoon that hit the country, Typhoon Yolanda, we undertook to further strengthen emergency preparedness of the whole municipality of Caluya,” he said.
“I would also like to mention that as of 2015, we have planted trees and mangroves in almost 625 hectares, more than tenth of the total size of the 5,500-hectare island. Of this area, around 200 hectares are mangrove plantations,” he said.
He said the firm would also continue to support education in the island. “When classes start in June, Semirara will be K to 12 ready with the additional 12 classrooms we are building in Divine Word School of Semirara.” Riza T. Olchondra
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