MANILA – In the wake of the destruction caused by Typhoon ‘Yolanda’, the government is setting aside P347 million to restore mangroves and natural beaches along the coast of Eastern Visayas.
In a statement, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje said the money would be used to rehabilitate the damaged areas and make them less vulnerable to extreme weather disturbances.
Under its plan, DENR would use the money to plant 19 million seedlings and propagules across 1,900 hectares of coastline under the National Greening Program.
Eighty percent of the fund would go to a 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 said.
The plan calls for establishing “coastal green belts” in clusters to enable fishermen to continue their livelihood and to develop ecotourism activity.
Besides Tacloban, also covered by the plan are Dulag town in Leyte, the municipalities of Guiuan, Llorente and Balangiga in Eastern Samar, and the town of Basey in Samar.
Paje said the proposal is awaiting approval by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
The plan comes on the heels of President Benigno Aquino III’s directive that the DENR craft a program to minimize the impact of storm surges, flooding and calamities following Yolanda’s devastation.
“Tacloban 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.
Ahead of the rehab program, Paje asked local government officials to enforce Presidential Decreee No. 1067 or the Philippine Water Code, which forbids houses in mangroves and beach forest areas.
Under Article 51 of the Code, “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.”
“The situation in Leyte and in Eastern Visayas necessitates a display of political will from their local government officials to restore their mangrove areas and beach forests,” Paje said, adding that informal settlers had intruded into those protected areas.
“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 said.
Citing a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) study, Paje said the strenght of an eight-meter storm surge is concentrated in 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,” he said, adding that mangroves are natural barriers to strong currents from the sea.