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Former solon to Congress: pass mangrove bill

Mangrove forest in the Philippines. Photo by Karen Peterson (Seacology).
Mangrove forest in the Philippines. Photo by Karen Peterson (Seacology).

Gale-force winds forming waves as tall as 15 feet swept through villages in Tacloban City and other areas during the height of typhoon Yolanda has flattened homes, destroyed concrete buildings and ultimately killing lives, and with the death toll still soaring, former partylist representative Angelo Palmones is appealing to the Congress to pass the Mangrove Conservation and Rehabilitation Program.

Likewise, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be allocating P347 million to develop the mangrove forest along the eastern seaboard Visayas, particularly in Leyte, which was badly hit by Yolanda last November 8.

The bill aims to fortify the first line of defense against storm surges should another typhoon as strong as Yolanda enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility in the future.

The Mangrove Conservation and Rehabilitation Program states that “mangroves buffer the impacts of storm surges, typhoons, tsunamis, and other natural disasters on adjacent terrestrial communities and ecosystems. By slowing the rate of water flow and allowing silt to settle out, they reduce the impact of flooding on adjacent marine ecosystems such as seagrass beds and coral reefs.”

“They help regulate the climate by sequestering carbon in their biomass, and the carbon is kept from being emitted into the atmosphere while the wood remains sound.”

In a statement, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said that the money will finance the restoration of mangrove and natural beach forests in wracked areas and make them less vulnerable to strong typhoons.

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,” citing the study Department of Science and Technology.

“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 stressed that mangroves are natural defense against against tsunamis, storm surge and other wave action.

“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,” Paje said.

It would also be a great help to residents as 80-percent of the budget will be paid to residents who will help with the reforestation as part of the government’s cash-for-work program.

“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,” he added.

The plan will also help establish “coastal green belts” in clusters, allowing fishermen to continue their livelihood and to develop ecotourism activity.

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