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No need to replant most mangroves in Yolanda-hit areas – study

Mangroves along the path of the typhoon that tore through the central Philippines last year mostly sustained "partial/minimal to no damage at all", which may mean savings from a massive P1-billion reforestation program.

A composite team of scientists and members of non-government organizations made a four-month assessment of mangroves from Leyte to Eastern Samar and found that many of the mangroves sustained "partial/minimal to no damage at all."

"Our survey revealed that probably 100-200 hectares only in 13 municipalities and one city suffered total mortality and therefore need new planting, in addition to enrichment planting of gaps in partially-damaged areas," said Dr. Jurgenne Primavera, Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation and Co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Mangrove Specialist Group, in an email to media.

"After all, they are bioshields. Damage-cum-recovery is part of their course," she added.

Researchers said, though, that the mangroves will still need protection. Mangrove beach forests are coastal bioshields that provide storm protection. They also serve as nursery areas for fish, and homes for some birds indigenous to the Philippines.

Most of the mangroves in the Philippines have disappeared, except in Palawan, Surigao, Samar, and Leyte.

Researchers from University of the Philippines – Diliman, University of the Philippines – Visayas, Tacloban College, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University provided the research framework for the assessment.

Meanwhile, non-government organizations Zoological Society of London, Guian Development Foundation, Inc., Haribon Foundation, and Conservation International provided the logistics.

President Benigno Aquino III last November issued a directive to the restore the mangroves to prevent the repeat of deadly storm surges. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) allotted P1 billion for the "massive reforestation of mangrove and beach forest across the country." Eastern Visayas would get a "sizeable chunk" of the project budget, according to a DENR report.

Eastern Visayas is also implementing the Leyte Gulf Rehabilitation program, with P38 million going to mangrove and beach forest planting along the coastline covering Palo, Leyte to San Juanico Bridge, Tacloban City and other areas along the San Juanico Gulf. — Kim Luces/JDS, GMA News