The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has proposed the allocation of P347 million for planting 19 million seedlings of mangrove species and restore the once lush natural beach forests of the Visayas.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the massive coastal rehabilitation program in Eastern Visayas region, particularly the province of Leyte and its capital Tacloban City, will restore the region’s degraded coastal forests to make its coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events.
“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,” he said.
Paje asked the local government officials to strictly implement Presidential Decree (PD) 1067, or the Philippine Water Code, that prohibits the construction of houses in areas for mangroves and beach forests.
Article 51 states: “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.”
Paje said the typhoon-affected coastlines in the Visayas were once mangroves and beach forests but were inhabited by informal settlers and for development activities.
“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,” he said.
“Had the mangroves in Leyte and Eastern Samar not been decimated, the storm surge in those areas would have been dissipated by 70 [percent]to 80 percent of its strength,” explained Paje.
A study by the Department of Science and Technology indicates that 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 not the roots of the mangroves that go very deep and strong and are easy to propagate, Paje said.
Under the plan, some 19 million seedlings and propagules from mangrove trees and beach forest species like Talisay to be planted in over 1,900 hectares of coastline under the National Greening Program.
Paje said 80 percent of the allocation will be used under the cash-for-work program for typhoon survivors involved in the seedling production, planting site preparation, actual planting and maintenance of mangrove and beach forest areas.
Restoring the coastal forests in Eastern Visayas—doing it with the proper
design and approved by all concerned local governments—will set the foundation for the reconstruction and recovery of both coastal communities and urban areas in the province,” he said.
Paje said the establishment of “coastal green belts” would be done in clusters to allow fisher folks’ access to the shorelines and other sustainable activities like ecotourism and coastal management.
He said the budget proposal is pending approval by the National Economic Development Authority.
President Aquino earlier ordered Paje to devise a comprehensive environment protection program to minimize the impact of storm surges, flooding and calamities in the future.
Other areas covered by the coastal rehabilitation plan are Dulag, Leyte; the municipalities of Guiuan, Llorente and Ba-langiga all in Eastern Samar; and Basey in Samar.