Gov’t-mandated ‘coastal greenbelts’ eyed to protect typhoon-prone areas

Mud flow from Mayon Volcano is seen rushing through a tributary in Bgy. Maipon in Guinobatan, Albay as rain brought about by typhoon Ruby hits the province on Sunday. Ruby is expected to pass near the province after making landfall in Eastern Samar on Sunday. (MNS photo)

Mud flow from Mayon Volcano is seen rushing through a tributary in Bgy. Maipon in Guinobatan, Albay as rain brought about by typhoon Ruby hits the province on Sunday. Ruby is expected to pass near the province after making landfall in Eastern Samar on Sunday. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – A lawmaker from Bicol – one of the provinces hardest and most often hit by typhoons – is recommending the creation of mangrove buffer zones along vulnerable coastlines.

With several typhoons affecting the country each year, a greenbelt of mangroves and beach forests along coastlines may help mitigate the damaging impact of waves and storm surges.

House Bill 5948 filed by Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe seeks to establish a National Coastal Greenbelt Program (NCGP) that will oversee the creation of  100-meter protection zones along coastal areas. The initial scope of the program will be the Eastern Pacific seaboard, where typhoons make landfall.

Under the measure, a coastal greenbelt stretching at least at least 100 meters in width from the sea towards land will be established in priority areas in each coastal municipality and city identified in the NCGP. Local officials shall prepare a Local Coastal Greenbelt Action plan (LCGGAP) to facilitate the implementation of mandated actions in the program.

The bill defines coastal greenbelt as a strip of natural or planted coastal vegetation, stretching at least 100 meters in width from the sea towards land and primarily of mangrove and beach forest species. The plants are seen to coastal erosion and mitigate the adverse impacts of natural coastal hazards on human lives and property.

Citing scientific studies, Batocabe said coastal greenbelts have been proven to reduce wave wind height and swell waves by 13 to 66 percent over 100 meters of mangroves. They can also minimize surface wind waves by more than 75 percent over one kilometer of mangroves, he added.

The lawmaker, who chairs the House committee on climate change, said coastal forests could reduce the force, depth and velocity of a tsunami, thereby lessening damage to property and reducing loss of life.

In addition, Batocabe said the establishment of coastal greenbelts would also be a cost-effective way to prepare for disasters since the protection they bring would only be a fraction of the damages that could be brought by the yearly battering of typhoons.

“The total valuation of mangroves is estimated at US$14,000-16,000 per hectare, of which about 80 percent is for coastal protection value,” he said.

Recent reports by the World Bank show the Philippines ranks 8th among countries most exposed to multiple hazards and ranks 13th at high economic risk to natural events.

Over the past two decades, the damages brought by natural disasters to the agriculture and infrastructure sectors alone reached $500 million, equivalent to 0.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

In 2009, the losses caused by Typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) amounted to some US$4.4 billion, or 2.7 percent of GDP.(MNS)

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