Philippines to rehab mangroves and natural beach forests as storm surge defence

DENR to allot P347M for Visayas mangrove rehab
Ellalyn De Vera Manila Bulletin 27 Nov 13;

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be allocating P347 million for the rehabilitation of mangroves and natural beach forests in Eastern Visayas as it will serve as the first line of defense against storm surge in the future.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the P347 million will finance the restoration of mangrove and natural beach forests in the coastal areas of Eastern Visayas region, particularly Leyte province, which was devastated by typhoon “Yolanda” last November 8.

“Tacloban City (in Leyte) is a major concern given its being a major population center, but the undertaking will cover practically the entire eastern seaboard of Eastern Visayas,” Paje said.

Other areas covered by the coastal rehabilitation plan are Dulag town in Leyte; municipalities of Guiuan, Llorente and Balangiga in Eastern Samar; and the town of Basey in Samar.

He said the main objective is to restore the region’s degraded coastal forests to make its coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as storm surge.

“It is clear in the law that we cannot allow people to build houses in areas for mangroves and beach forest,” Paje said, as he referred to Presidential Decree No. 1067, also known as the Philippine Water Code.

Article 51 of said water code states that “banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

Citing a study by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Paje said the “strength of an eight-meter storm surge is concentrated within the lower six meters with the upper two meters as only having tidal currents.”

“The surge can only destroy the leaves, but it cannot uproot the mangroves because they are so deep- rooted and strong that they will regrow in time,” Paje said.

He also stressed that mangroves are natural barriers against tsunamis, storm surge and other wave action, and therefore, should not be destroyed.

“Had the mangroves in Leyte and Eastern Samar not been decimated, the storm surge in those areas would have been dissipated by 70 to 80 percent of its strength,” he explained.

Under the DENR plan, some 19 million seedlings and propagules from mangrove trees and beach forest species like Talisay will be planted over 1,900 hectares of coastline under the National Greening Program.

Paje said that about 80 percent of the allocation will be used for the government’s cash-for-work program for typhoon survivors, who will take part in seedling production, planting site preparation, actual planting and maintenance of mangrove and beach forest areas.

“Restoring the coastal forests in Eastern Visayas will set the foundation for the reconstruction and recovery of both coastal communities and urban areas in the province,” Paje explained.

“We will design it properly and have it approved by concerned local government units,” he added.

He also said that the establishment of “coastal green belts” will be done in clusters to allow fisher folk access to the shorelines, as well as other sustainable activities like ecotourism and coastal management

He said the budget proposal is awaiting approval by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).