Press Release
April 19, 2023

Legarda presses for greenbelts in coastal areas

To reduce the impacts of strong typhoons and protect coastal folks in the country, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda pushed for the establishment of national coastal greenbelt zones and the institutionalization of a coastal greenbelt management action plan under her Senate Bill No. 1117, or the "National Coastal Greenbelt Act of 2022."

"Mangrove forests, beach forests, and seagrass beds act as natural defenses against strong typhoons, coastal erosion, and storm surges. Mangroves, in particular, are vital for climate stabilization as they store and sequester carbon better than tropical forests. Such importance was highlighted when mangrove forests in Del Carmen, Siargao protected the coastal communities therein from the wrath of typhoon Odette, the strongest typhoon in 2021," Legarda explained.

Despite their crucial role in climate change mitigation and adaptation and disaster risk reduction, coastal greenbelts in the country continue to be in danger of reduction and destruction. Pervasive threats to coastal greenbelts include land development and reclamation, deforestation, pollution, illegal conversion, and the conversion of mangrove forests to fishponds for aquaculture.

The four-term Senator has underscored the need for safeguarding the country's 822 coastal communities and having a comprehensive water resource management plan that must be integrated into all development plans, programs, and projects of all public and private sectors as well as the local communities and public in general.

"We should revive the ecological integrity and restore the bounty of our coastal communities in view of mitigating the damaging effects of natural coastal risks on human lives and properties. We need to develop and implement science-based policies for mangrove restoration and regeneration, as well as map coastal resources across the country, because we won't know what we will protect and preserve if we do not know what we actually have," Legarda urged.

The proposed measure also seeks to establish a National Technical Committee on Coastal Greenbelt Zones (NTAC), which shall be an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), whose functions include preparing a comprehensive and integrated National Coastal Greenbelt Management Plan (NCGMAP).

The NCGMAP shall contain Operational Plans, which shall cover the reversion of all abandoned fishponds to mangroves through natural regeneration or replanting with locally appropriate species.

Legarda lamented that at present, the government is constrained to implement the reversion of abandoned, underutilized, and undeveloped fishponds due to a lack of data sharing and systematic collaboration among concerned agencies.

This evidences the need to integrate, consolidate, and institutionalize the coastal greenbelt framework strategy and action plans into all development plans, programs, and projects, and into all actions and decisions of the national and local governments, businesses, non-government organizations, and local communities.

"Our natural life support systems and our people will be protected and made more resilient by institutionalizing coastal greenbelt zones, which is a nature-based solution. It will also ensure agency coordination and collaboration, both of which are urgently required if we are to reduce and adapt to the effects of climate change and mainstream sustainable development for all," she concluded.

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