House bill seeks establishment of coastal greenbelts

MANILA, Nov. 2 (PNA) -- A bill in the House of Representatives pushes for the establishment of greenbelts of mangroves and beach forests along coastlines to effectively mitigate the damaging impacts of waves and storm surges.

Rep. Rodel M. Batocabe (Party-list, Ako Bicol) filed House Bill 5948, otherwise known as the “National Coastal Greenbelt Act of 2015,” which seeks to create the National Coastal Greenbelt Program.

Coastal greenbelt, as defined under the bill, is a strip of natural or planted coastal vegetation, stretching at least 100 meters in width from the sea towards land, primarily of mangrove and beach forest species, which are designed to prevent coastal erosion and mitigate the adverse impacts of natural coastal hazards on human lives and property.

Batocabe, chairman of the House Special Committee on Climate Change, said establishing the National Coastal Greenbelt Program shall provide the Climate Change Commission the directives, funding and general guiding principles for implementing a science-based and cost effective program.

“The proposed National Coastal Greenbelt Program mandates the establishment of 100-meter protection zones, initially for the Eastern Pacific seaboard, where typhoons make landfall,” he said.

Batocabe, in his explanatory note, said the Philippines, as shown in the World Bank reports, ranks 8th among countries most exposed to multiple hazards and ranks 13th at high economic risk to natural events.

He said damages to the agriculture and infrastructure sectors alone reached USD500 million in the past two decades, 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 USD4.4 billion, or 2.7 percent of GDP,” he said.

Batocabe said the damages that super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) brought when it hit Eastern Visayas in 2013 were massive, making millions of Filipinos homeless and without means of livelihood.

He said much of the losses from typhoons are brought by storm surges and strong winds coming from the open sea.

“In the age of global climate change, this has unfortunately become the new normal. The poor coastal communities’ natural exposure to storm surges and lack of resources for preparation and recovery make them most vulnerable,” Batocabe explained.

The party-list solon said as scientifically proven, coastal greenbelts can reduce wave wind height and swell waves by 13-66 percent over 100 meters of mangroves.

“Coastal greenbelts can reduce surface wind waves by more than 75 percent over one kilometer of mangroves,” Batocabe said.

He further said that coastal forests could reduce the force, depth and velocity of a tsunami, lessening damage to property and reducing loss of life.

According to the party-list solon, coastal greenbelts are also cost-effective for disaster preparedness in the long term.

“The total valuation of mangroves is estimated at USD14,000-16,000 per hectare, of which about 80 percent is for coastal protection value,” he said.

Batocabe added that the cost of establishing coastal greenbelts to protect against storm surge and tsunami would only be a fraction of the damages that could be brought by the yearly battering of typhoons.

Under Batocabe's proposal, each coastal municipality and city in the identified priority coastal greenbelt areas in the Action Plan shall prepare a Local Coastal Greenbelt Action plan (LCGGAP) to facilitate the implementation of mandated actions in the NCGAP.

The solon emphasized that the establishment of science-based coastal greenbelts is expected to protect biodiversity, improve fisheries productivity and enhance the tourism and livelihood potential of the area. (PNA)

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