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3 years needed to restore mangroves in Leyte, Samar

THE massive mangrove reforestation in Eastern Visayas, was devastated by Superttyphoon Yolanda, will require 70 million seedlings and will take at least three years of continuous planting and production of planting materials, Director Ricardo Calderon of the Forest Management Bureau (FMBI) said.

Calderon said that initially, 380 kilometers of the coastline of Leyte and Samar islands are being eyed for reforestation.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje earlier announced that P347 million has been set aside for the massive reforestation of coastal areas in Leyte and Samar provinces, namely, Tacloban City and Dulag town in Leyte; the towns of Guiuan, Llorente and Balangiga in Eastern Samar; and the town of Basey in Samar.

For the P347-million budget being sought by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), about 19 million seedlings in roughly 1,900 hectares of coastal areas will be planted. The project, as well as budget proposal, is awaiting approval by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

Calderon, however, said Paje has instructed the FMB to consider including the coastal areas in the town of Borongan in Eastern Samar and other areas in Eastern Visayas.

Calderon, also the national coordinator of the National Greening Program, said about 70 million seedlings are needed to cover practically the entire eastern seaboard of Eastern Visayas.

About 10,000 mangrove seedlings or planting materials are required for every hectare if cluster reforestation is to be applied. The mangrove tree planting will be done by cluster and areas where the mangroves will have highest rate of survival will be identified by a team sent to assess project sites.  He said fishing boat landing areas will also be identified for small fishermen.

Calderon added that they are now mapping out areas as potential mangrove nursery sites needed to be put up to supply planting materials to rebuild Eastern Visayas’s natural defense against storm surges and tsunami.

At least eight nurseries will be put up in eight towns in various parts of the region. He said the FMB will start from scratch in rebuilding tree nurseries for mangrove reforestation, but said they are also looking at getting planting materials from other areas, possibly in Luzon or Mindanao, to start the tree-planting activities next year.

Calderon said a team from the DENR will fly to Tacloban City to coordinate with the DENR-FMB’s office in Eastern Visayas this week.

A team from the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is already in Tacloban City to help the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) identify “high-risk areas” to be declared as “no-build zones,” as well as safe ground for permanent relocation of those to be moved away from coastal areas.

“We are eyeing at least eight nurseries and we are still looking for areas to put up these nurseries,” he said.  For each nursery, he said four caretakers will be hired. Identification of the nursery site alone, he said, will take time, considering the devastation wrought by the super typhoon.

Some coastal areas are still not cleared of debris. Some areas are occupied by fishermen who would eventually have to be relocated, he said.

“That’s the challenge. This is not a normal situation.  In other areas not affected by the super typhoon, it takes about a month to establish a mangrove nursery. But considering the devastation, it will take longer to do that in Eastern Visayas,” he said.

Part of the costs being eyed are activities related to survey, assessment and recovery of legal easement and cash-for-work program for Yolanda survivors to be affected by the reforestation activities.

“We will do progressive development. Hindi kaya ng isang taon iyan. It will take three years, at least, to complete,” Calderon said.

He said they are now coordinating with the DPWH and the MGB, which were tasked to map out the no-build zones in the region.

Part of the plan is to find permanent relocation for those to be declared as no-build zones.

The DENR chief earlier said under the law, people should not be allowed to build houses in areas for mangroves and beach forest, citing Article 51 of Presidential Decree 1067, also known as the Philippine Water Code, which states that “banks of rivers and streams, and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length, and within a zone of 3 meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

Once areas are cleared of debris and residents in coastal areas have been relocated to a more permanent, safer human settlement, he said the tree-planting activities will begin, with fishermen in the areas to be tapped under a cash-for-work program.

This, he said, will generate tens of thousands of “green jobs.”

“In [Typhoon] Pablo, we generated around 30,000 jobs in Compostela and Davao Oriental,” he said, adding that because of scale and magnitude of the devastation, reforesting the entire Eastern seaboards with mangroves will generate more green jobs and promote “inclusive growth” during the project’s progressive development.






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