Legarda pushes for mangrove greenbelts in coastal communities

Published January 6, 2022, 1:48 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda has renewed her call for the public to plant and rehabilitate mangroves along the shorelines of vulnerable communities, so they can serve as natural buffers against future storm surges, flooding, and erosion, among other natural calamities.

At the same time, Legarda also called on on the Climate Change Commission, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other national and local government agencies to follow a “Building with Nature” approach in developing and implementing ecosystem-based coastal defense measures alongside existing risk reduction measures.

Her appeal came Thursday, Jan. 6 as she said “we have long understood the workings of nature and learn[ed] once more from the experience from Typhoons Odette and Yolanda.”

“In natural settings, mangroves have effectively protected our most vulnerable communities, lowering the storm surge and dampening the waves within the first few hundreds of meters of forest. A mangrove greenbelt of hundreds of meters wide can play a critical role in reducing wind or swell waves, thus reducing erosion, flooding, and storm surges and preventing loss of life and damage to properties,” Legarda, a pro-environment lawmaker, said.

“We need to work with and alongside natural processes. Nature-based solutions, such as planting mangrove greenbelts, are right in front of us and have been very effective in preventing further loss and damage,” she added.

For Legarda, the government’s development plans should support a more extensive planting and rehabilitation of mangroves, which must be recognized as a fundamental part of the local economy in various industries. These include growing fish population and biodiversity, capturing carbon, and providing forest products and recreation.

During the onslaught of “Odette,” Legarda said, the coastal municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao was spared from storm surges because it is home to 4,871 hectares of mangroves, the largest such forest in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, during Typhoon Yolanda, the world’s deadliest storm in 2013, Barangay Parina in Giporlos, Eastern Samar was also saved from storm surges by its mangrove forests of nine hectares.

Legarda, who pushed for earmarking of funds for mangrove reforestation when she was still a senator, admitted she still recognizes that there remains a need for a comprehensive and integrated policy on mangroves that could support nature-based and sustainable climate adaptation measures to protect vulnerable communities and their livelihoods.

“We need to invest in nature’s solutions. Integrated coastal zone management will help address the root causes of coastal vulnerability,” she said.

“We need to involve local communities and stakeholder groups in both the design and implementation of zoning plans and management plans. We must provide incentives to the community to act as local custodians of the mangrove forests, or offer climate-resilient livelihoods linked to the management of the greenbelt,” she added.