AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People challenges the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to develop coastal greenbelts, such as mangrove forests, beach forests and seagrass beds, in order to protect coastal communities from hazards, instead of permanently displacing victims of Typhoon Odette.
DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda recently announced that coastal residents in Siargao will no longer be allowed to return to their homes for safety purposes. Instead, the DENR will be granting parcels of land to qualified tenured migrants . DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya remarked that the agency urged President Duterte for the creation of an inter-agency task force that will implement the eviction and relocation of residents living along the 40-meter coastal easement zone . We fear that eviction of typhoon victims will lead to land grabbing and gentrification of coastal communities. This has been the case of coastal communities in Tacloban when previously declared no-build zones were instead modified to no-dwelling zones to accommodate commercial establishments .
AGHAM calls on the DENR to consider developing coastal greenbelts instead. Coastal greenbelts, such as mangrove forests, beach forests and seagrass beds, serve as natural barriers against storm surge and coastal erosion. These ecosystems also serve other functions, such as habitats for commercially important fishes and as carbon sinks to mitigate climate change. Recent reports showed that mangrove forests in Del Carmen, Siargao were able to protect residents from storm surge during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette . This shows that DENR and DILG should exhaust all means to mitigate hazards first, such as developing coastal greenbelts, improving early warning systems and enhancing disaster risk reduction measures up to the local level, before considering totally and permanently uprooting residents from their homes and livelihood. Conservation and restoration of coral reefs and seagrass beds also add protection against strong waves. Should eviction become inevitable, concerned government agencies should find relocation sites where residents could still practice their livelihood. Strict implementation of no-build zones must also be practiced, wherein former settlements must not be converted to resorts and other commercial establishments, considering that Siargao is an internationally renowned tourist destination. Instead, these should be transformed into coastal greenbelts that will protect the lives and livelihood of people rather than enrich the pockets of local and foreign disaster capitalists and their bureaucrat capitalist collaborators. What happened in Tacloban should not be repeated in Siargao.
Development of coastal greenbelts should involve not only planting of mangrove and beach forest species, but also the protection of existing coastal ecosystems. The devastation brought by Typhoon Odette should also serve as a warning to the government especially to DENR not to further pursue and allow reclamation projects in Manila Bay, Dumaguete, Cebu, Bohol, and other coastal areas in the country. Building residential and commercial establishments in the seafront where various hazards are present will only put more people’s lives in danger.
We remind the DENR and DILG to not further burden residents with the fear of losing their homes and livelihood. Instead, the two agencies together with other government agencies should help the residents of Siargao and all other victims of Typhoon Odette from different regions in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to be able to recover from the devastation brought by the typhoon. As a country frequently ravaged by typhoons every year, it is imperative that the government invest in making communities more resilient to disasters. ###
 Inquirer. (2021, December 28). DENR moves to save more people from coastal areas of Siargao following ‘Odette’. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1533049/fwd-denr-people-residing-in-coastal-areas-in-siargao-no-longer-allowed-to-return-to-their-homes
 CNN Philippines. (2021, December 28). DILG eyes task force to evict, relocate residents from coastal easements. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2021/12/28/DILG-task-force-residents-eviction-coastal-easements.html
 CNN Philippines. (2014, November 7). Life in Tacloban’s ‘danger zones,’ one year on from Typhoon Haiyan. https://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/07/world/asia/philippines-tacloban-haiyan-survivors/index.html
 OneNews. (2021, December 27). Some Siargao Residents Saved By Mangrove Forest From Odette. https://www.onenews.ph/articles/some-siargao-residents-saved-by-mangrove-forest-from-odette