EDITORIAL - Stopping the waves
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - November 26, 2013 - 12:00am

In the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda, the threat of deadly storm surges now looms large in this archipelago of 7,100 islands. People who have depended on the sea all their lives for their sustenance now look at the waters with trepidation, wondering when nature would once again unleash its merciless fury.

Filipinos are resilient, however, and fishing villages are sure to quickly come back to life. Recovery may be harder for the coastal urban centers that now lie in ruins. Any rehabilitation plan that the government draws up must include measures to make the sea – and storm surges – less of a risk to lives and property.

In several bayfront properties lining Manila Bay, owners have fortified structures and installed barriers to break the impact of a storm surge. In 2011, waves up to 20 feet high had crashed into Manila and Pasay, destroying several structures facing Manila Bay and causing massive flooding from Roxas Boulevard all the way to Taft Avenue.

For many city residents, it was the first time they had heard of a weather disturbance called a storm surge. Waves up to 35 feet high also reportedly wreaked havoc in Tacloban City at the height of Yolanda, while a tsunami-like storm surge apparently devastated several villages in Eastern Samar.

Nothing can stop a storm surge, but there are ways of minimizing the impact of powerful waves. Levees have been built in some countries, although the ones in New Orleans were breached by the storm surge during Hurricane Katrina. Another option is to develop mangrove forests, which can also function as bird sanctuaries and breeding grounds for marine life.

The birds can be seen at the mangrove forest that has developed in a lagoon along Coastal Road connecting Parañaque and Las Piñas. Yolanda has revived the debate over the proposed destruction of the coastal lagoon to make way for commercial development. That mangrove forest must be protected and expanded rather than destroyed, and more mangrove areas must be propagated throughout the archipelago. You can’t roll back deadly waves, but their punch can be blunted. Natural barriers should help do the job.

COASTAL ROAD EASTERN SAMAR HURRICANE KATRINA LAS PI MANILA AND PASAY MANILA BAY NEW ORLEANS ROXAS BOULEVARD STORM SUPER TYPHOON YOLANDA
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