P347M earmarked for coastal reforestation in Eastern Visayas

Pia Ranada
19 million seedlings and propagules of mangrove trees and beach forest species will be planted over 1,900 hectares of coastline

EXPOSED. Island and coastal communities devastated by Yolanda, like Bantayan Island in Cebu, may benefit from mangrove forests. Photo by Bibi delos Reyes

MANILA, Philippines – Around P347 million will be earmarked for the reforestation of mangroves and natural beach forests in areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.

Approximately 19 million seedlings and propagules of mangrove trees and beach forest species will be planted over 1,900 hectares of coastline under the National Greening Program.

The rehabilitation plan will cover Tacloban City and Dulag town in Leyte; Guiuan, Llorente and Balangiga in Eastern Samar; and the town of Basey in Samar, the DENR said in a statement Wednesday, November 27.

Bringing back mangroves and beach forests is a key disaster-preparedness and risk reduction measure, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje was quoted in the statement as saying. (READ: Mangroves are PH’s best shield vs climate change)

Mangroves and beach forests are natural barriers against tsunamis, storm surge and other wave action. Unfortunately, most of these were destroyed to give way to informal settler communities or development projects, Paje said.

The DENR cited a study by the Department of Science and Technology, which showed that the strength of 8-meter storm surges is concentrated in its lower 6 meters, and can thus be withstood by mangroves. “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,” said Paje.

“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% of its strength,” he said.

Because of the special role of mangroves and beach forests, Paje emphasized that houses should not be allowed to be built along coastlines. According to the Philippine Water Code, up to 40 meters of sea shore is reserved for public use.

The P347 million budget proposal has been submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for approval.

Around 80% of it will be used for a cash-for-work program in which typhoon survivors help in seedling production, planting site preparation, and the actual planting and maintenance of the mangroves and beach forests.

This can serve as a temporary form of livelihood as the affected communities struggle to rebuild.

“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.” – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.