When cyclones hit the Philippines, among the most affected are those living in coastal areas. Because of their proximity to the sea or ocean, they’re often bombarded with strong waves and storm surges, which deals significant damage to their home and properties. Even worse though, it endangers their lives.

Since the country has one of the longest coastlines in the world, a lot of Filipinos remain under the threat of these – often deadly – natural phenomena. 

To combat the destruction and life-threatening effects brought about by these massive storms, Oceana said the national government should pursue the creation of greenbelt zones composed of mangroves and beach forest in coastal areas. 

According to the ocean conservation organization, these green shields are effective in dampening the effects of storm surges.

“We have seen the strongest typhoons and storm surges hitting coastal villages and leaving us with numerous deaths and losses in property,” Oceana Philippines and Marine Scientist Jurgenne Primavera said. 

“The solution is simple. Reducing or absorbing the wave energy from storm surges depends on physical factors—distance traveled by waves, water depth; and especially biological factors comprising the greenbelt of mangroves and beach trees—their size, shape, height, density, etc.,” she explained.

The effectiveness of these greenbelt zones was demonstrated during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette in Del Carmen, Siargao. Mayor Proserfina Matugas Coro said mangrove forests were able to protect their coastal communities from a storm surge. 

However, Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said the creation of greenbelt zones is not the end-all or be-all. It has to be supplemented with disaster risk reduction strategies and mechanisms “that will enhance the people’s adaptive capacity to be able to rise up amid the challenges posed by the climate crisis.”

Currently, multiple bills have been filed seeking the establishment of a national coastal greenbelt program and a greenbelt management action plan. In the Senate alone, Senators Nancy Binay and Risa Hontiveros have filed legislation for its creation. 

Meanwhile, in the lower chamber, similar bills were filed by Representatives. Argel Joseph Cabatbat (Magsasaka party-list), Alfredo Garbin (Ako Bicol party-list) and Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City). 

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