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Deaths and losses in properties, livelihood from typhoons can be averted

Creation of national and local coastal greenbelt zones sought

Press Release Date: March 18, 2022

Following the immense devastation in Central Visayas and Mindanao caused by super typhoon Odette, and the fact that the country is among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Oceana supports the much—needed law for the establishment of coastal greenbelt zones and the development of National Coastal Greenbelt Management Action Plan. The international ocean protection group said the deaths and injuries, and massive losses in properties and livelihood can be prevented if only the concerned national and local governments prioritize the reduction of the vulnerability of coastal communities, enhance adaptive capacity, and build resilience to climate change-related impacts and disasters. The country has progressive laws intended to protect and strengthen the resiliency of the natural life support system from anthropogenic pressures including impacts from climate change. “The massive destruction and aftermath of super Typhoon Odette is another wake up call. Let us heed the warning and act. The vulnerable communities, especially poor fisherfolk and their families, suffer from the propensity for dump-and-fill projects that decimated our once-rich mangrove forest areas. We live in an archipelago with one of the longest coastlines that are also the pathway of typhoons and storm surges, yet the government favored the so-called development projects in exchange for coastal defense provided by mangroves and beach forest areas which had been decimated as a result,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President. Chief Mangrove Scientific Advisor of the Zoological Society of London, Dr. Jurgenne Primavera said mangroves and beach forest areas contribute largely to coastal protection. Mangrove forests also serve as a major source of carbon capture to mitigate the impacts of climate change. “We have seen the strongest typhoons and storm surges hitting coastal villages and leaving us with numerous deaths and losses in property. The solution is simple. Reducing or absorbing the wave energy from storm surges depends on physical factors – distance travelled by waves, water depth; and especially biological factors comprising the greenbelt of mangrove and beach trees – their size, shape, height, density, etc.,” Primavera explained. Primavera cited a 2012 review paper by McIvor and colleagues which showed that a 100-meter-wide greenbelt can absorb or reduce 13-60% of energy from regular wind waves and swell waves. That reduction is translated to a 60% maximum reduction in damage to property and loss of lives. “We need a coastal greenbelt zone that is a combination of mangroves and beach forest areas tol provide protection of communities from storms,” she added. Vice Mayor Alfred M. Coro II of Del Carmen, Siargao said, “The impact of super typhoon Odette to our communities could have been worse, were it not for the mangrove areas that we painstakingly sustained and protected through the years. Like the other towns in Surigao del Norte and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, their town was among those which were heavily hit by super typhoon Odette. They are calling for support to rebuild their houses and assistance in the recovery process of the people’s livelihood. Fisherfolk leader and 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, recognized as an unflinching guardian of mangroves in Zamboanga Sibugay, emphasized the importance of protecting and restoring mangrove forests. “Nakita namin kung paano sinira ng mga negosyante ang mga mangroves dito sa amin at pinayagan sila ng pamahalaan. Nawalan kami ng pagkakakitaan at nalagay sa peligro ang buhay namin dahil wala nang humaharang sa mga daluyong dulot ng bagyo. Kumilos kami at ibinalik namin ang mangroves at muling nabuhay ang mga lamang-dagat. Ipaglalaban na namin ito kung meron uling magtatangkang putulin para bigyang-daan ang mga proyektong para daw sa kaunlaran pero nakasanla ang malusog na karagatan at pangisdaan para sa aming mga anak at kanilang mga susunod na henerasyon,” Ballon added. Ramos said that the important contribution of mangroves and beach forest species in mitigating the adverse impacts of natural coastal hazards on human lives and property have been proven by science and the people’s experience. “That is why the participation of non-government organizations, local communities and the public in the development and implementation of plans, programs and activities for coastal greenbelts is important. This should be interrelated with disaster risk reduction mechanisms that will enhance the people’s adaptive capacity to be able to rise up amid the challenges posed by the climate crisis,” Ramos added. Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources. For more information: Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana  Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: Twitter:@oceana_phInstagram: @oceana_ph