Protecting the coast of Eastern Samar

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BENEL D. LAGUA

It took one plane ride and six hours of land trip to get to San Policarpo in Eastern Samar, but it was well worth the journey. As a strong sign of commitment, the DBP President, no less—Cecilia C. Borromeo—led a small group to inaugurate a DBP Forest Project in support of a 60-hectare mangrove rehabilitation located in four municipalities: Arteche, San Policarpo, Oras and Gen. MacArthur. Past supertyphoons Yolanda and Ruby have brought severe deforestation, and the mangrove forests in the province ha been damaged, needing rehabilitation.

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The mangrove will not only protect; it will restore the normal abundance of marine species. Some 3 hectares will also be utilized for seaweed farming and we expect this to provide additional livelihood, even as we rehabilitate the mangrove areas.

The DBP Forest Program finds its origin in 2001—a year that ended not with a bang, but with a tragedy that almost wiped out Infanta, Quezon. The scenario pricked DBP’s heart and it was then that the idea of reforestation was conceptualized to contribute to the prevention of soil erosion and lessen the incidence of flooding.

Thus, the DBP Forest was born in 2005 in cooperation with qualified partners. This program involved protection of critical watersheds and coastal area as well as enhancement of protection of the environment. Open forests are selected for planting of high value fruit and forest trees and mangroves that will reduce soil/coastal erosion, conserve water, increase biodiversity, serve as spawning ground for fish and crustaceans, as well as protection against strong wave incursion and to promote rural livelihood opportunities.

The program has since become profoundly transformative, with far reaching implications on poverty alleviation, moral regeneration, environmental protection and economic upliftment for many of our target beneficiaries and program stakeholders.

Under the DBP Forest Program, 44 projects worth P138 million with 7,254 hectares—6,444 for upland and 810 for coastal areas – have been supported. There are 27 projects in Luzon, 10 in Mindanao and seven in Visayas.
For the Eastern Samar DBP Forest, the initiatives of both Governor Conrado Nicart Jr. and Mayor Thelma Nicart were instrumental. The DENR commitment was also vital in getting the project off the ground.

Interestingly, the event was broadcast in the local media and Mayor Nicart reported positive feedback from unknown constituents in the community, who texted their appreciation for the improvement of the safeguards around the coastal areas of the province.

Mangrove ecosystem plays an integral part of the coastal zone in Southeast Asia. It serves as a buffer zone in a coastline against typhoons and tidal waves. Mangroves also help control pollution by serving as a pollution sink, thereby buffering the impact of silt and other pollutants from the terrestrial area. They are also a good habitat for marine and wild animal, as well as a breeding ground for fish and crustaceans, and provide a nesting and breeding place for birds.

The coastal areas of the province are largely facing the Pacific Ocean, which is exposed to the grave danger of mangrove depletion or extinction due to the devastation wrought by past supertyphoons.

This project is the best mitigant for the conservation and development of natural resources. It will restore the normal abundance of marine species and corals as the mangrove forests will definitely be home to a huge volume of fish and other marine organisms that can provide sustainable livelihood for the people.

This is a project that benefits the community. At the end of the day, it will succeed only with the people’s support. In the past, rampant illegal fishing, uncontrollable charcoal making and other illegal activities contributed to the depletion of mangrove forests. True development will only take place if all partners communicate, coordinate and collaborate with each other. We are optimistic the people of Eastern Samar will not only make this project work, but will be vigilant enough to make it succeed.

Benel D. Lagua is executive vice president at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office, as well as FINEX.

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