EDITORIAL - Barriers to disaster
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - August 3, 2014 - 12:00am

Filipinos were mostly unfamiliar with storm surges, until one struck the bay area of Manila in September 2011. The force of the surge, with waves as high as 20 feet, destroyed hotel fronts and Manila’s Baywalk, and submerged the western section of the city all the way to Taft Avenue in several inches of water.

That surge, however, was nothing to the one that flattened Tacloban City and several other areas of Leyte and Samar a year ago this month. Super Typhoon Yolanda left thousands dead and billions in property and crops destroyed as it roared across the Visayas.

Today memories of the typhoon have encouraged the development of more disaster-resilient dwellings and public infrastructure. There’s another tool for storm surge resilience, however, that has so far been generally overlooked: the propagation of mangrove forests around vulnerable areas.

Earlier this week the nation joined the world in observing Mangrove Day. For nearly two decades now, July 26 has been observed as the International Day of the Mangrove Ecosystem Defense. Mangrove ecosystems promote biodiversity and are natural habitats for wildlife. Considered the rainforests of the seas, they also help ease global warming.

As in other countries, however, mangroves have dwindled in the Philippines, making way for real estate development, aquaculture and other commercial activities. Several environment groups have moved to save the remaining mangrove forests, with Sen. Cynthia Villar providing a high profile to the battle to save one such coastal area in her home city of Las Piñas. The 175-hectare area has been declared a protected eco-tourism zone and listed among the world’s important wetlands.

Villar has noted that a mangrove forest saved the Leyte town of Palompon from the fury of Yolanda. Mangroves serve as natural protective barriers, breaking the force of storm surges. In popular travel destinations such as Palawan, mangrove patches are used for kayaking and other tourism activities.

With 7,100 islands and one of the world’s most extensive coastlines, the Philippines is among the most vulnerable to storm surges. Propagating mangrove forests in coastal communities is not only good for eco-tourism but is also an inexpensive way of mitigating the impact of climate change. In a country as vulnerable to natural calamities as the Philippines, any weapon against disaster counts.

 

 

BAYWALK CYNTHIA VILLAR INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE MANGROVE ECOSYSTEM DEFENSE LAS PI LEYTE AND SAMAR MANGROVE MANGROVE DAY SUPER TYPHOON YOLANDA TACLOBAN CITY TAFT AVENUE
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