Editorial: Protecting our coastlines

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

IT'S an offer that officials of local government units (LGUs) in Cebu should not turn down. We are referring to the offer by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to provide mangrove seedlings and saplings to those who want to plant the trees to protect their coasts from storm surges.

“It is high time we reflected on the degraded coastal forest and how we could regenerate it through mangrove reforestation to make our coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events,” said DENR 7 Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo.

A storm surge was blamed for the high number of casualties in Tacloban City and other Leyte towns when super typhoon Yolanda struck parts of the Visayas.

But actually, it is easier to gloss over the lessons provided by the recent deadly typhoon than to use these as guide in reconstruction and rehabilitation. Disaster preparedness, after all, is not on the top of the totem pole of priorities of many local governments.

Even in areas badly battered by Yolanda, government officials seem more interested in merely giving the survivors construction materials to help them rebuild their homes instead of guiding them in the rebuilding process so their communities are better prepared for the next typhoon.

There’s no talk about looking for or even constructing sturdy evacuation centers that can also protect residents from storm surges. And we haven’t heard of plans to plant mangroves in strategic coastal areas.

To be fair, the Cebu City Government, which was not in the path of Yolanda’s eye wall, has talked about finding suitable evacuation centers while the city council, which is dominated by the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK), has asked the Coastal Management Board to pinpoint areas suitable for the planting of mangroves.

But these plans should be transformed into a movement participated in by all officials of LGUs. More than that, these should be realized and not relegated to mere talk.

And their implementation should start now, if not we will only be repeating the same cycle of lack of disaster preparedness and devastation.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 10, 2013.


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