By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay on Thursday called for the creation of buffer zones along vulnerable shorelines to protect coastal communities.
Binay, who earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1082 or an “Act Establishing the National Coastal Greenbelt Action Plan,” said it is imperative that the government acts to reduce the impacts of cyclones in the coastal communities of the country with an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective initiative.
Citing a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), Binay said the Philippines has been tagged as one of the most disaster prone countries in the world.
According to UN-OCHA, an average of 22 tropical cyclones enters the Philippine area of responsibility annually, of which around six to seven cause significant damage.
“Thus, coastal communities become vulnerable to such tropical storms due to their natural exposure and lack of resources for preparation and recovery,” she said.
She also said studies from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) also show that coastal forests and mangroves are helpful in mitigating cyclone damages and are affordable than artificial sea defenses which, in many cases, were found to be ineffective.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the other hand said that more than 50 percent of Philippine municipalities are coastal while all major cities lie in coastal areas.
Under the bill, the Climate Change Commission “shall identify and convene all national agencies responsible for foreshore management, mangrove and beach forest protection and utilization, coastal land and sea-use planning, coastal tourism development, social welfare of coastal communities, and other relevant mandates, to prepare an integrated National Coastal Greenbelt Action Plan (NCGAP).
The measure proposes that a coastal greenbelt stretching at least 100 meters in width from the sea towards land will be established in priority areas in each coastal province, municipality, and city identified in the NCGAP.
Local officials shall prepare a Local Coastal Greenbelt Action plan (LCGAP) to facilitate the implementation of mandated actions in the program.
Under the measure, “coastal greenbelts” are defined as strips 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.
Binay said the NCGAP shall contain, among others, the rapid inventory of the status of coastlines and foreshores, including the status of mangroves, beach forests, settlements, structures, and fishponds within 100 meters therein.
The NCGAP will also allow the assessment of priority areas to be declared as coastal greenbelts, for each coastal province, city, and municipality, to protect by means of mangroves and beach forests, based on vulnerability to storm surges, waves, tsunami and the like; designation of priority areas for coastal greenbelts that are already included as either a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Republic Act No. 7586), or as a fish refuge or sanctuary under the Fisheries Code of 1998 (Republic Act No. 8550), or as a local marine protected area as may be declared by municipalities and cities through ordinances; and the operational Plan for the rehabilitation, reforestation or afforestation of designated priority coastal greenbelts.
Also under the proposed law, the NCGAP shall also contain the operational plan for the removal of illegal structures such as breakwaters, permanent residential/commercial structures, and the like in the identified priority coastal greenbelts.