May has been celebrated Month of the Ocean in the Philippines since 1998. This year’s theme focuses on the mangroves, with official tagline ““Mangroves protect. Protect mangroves”.
The tagline specifically refers to the mangroves’ role in protecting coastal areas from strong waves and storm surges caused by typhoons. This critical role of mangroves was especially recognized in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. While Yolanda’s strength was off the charts and certainly bound to cause a lot of damage, in some areas, communities claim that their healthy mangroves helped protect them from the brunt of the storm.
“The mangroves are still standing, but there are circles in the middle where the branches of the trees had been sheared … They helped save us from the fury of Yolanda,” Milane Desamparado said.
— Mangroves shielded Sagay islet’s residents – Inquirer.net
Did you know that Manila Bay was once lined with healthy mangroves? The name “Manila” itself came from “may nilad,” with nilad referring to a certain type of mangroves. Alas, the mangroves are long gone and so now we have to rely on costly sea walls to protect Manila’s coasts.
After Yolanda, the government declared mangrove forests restoration and protection a priority, as a way of protecting coastal communities from future typhoons that are bound to get stronger because of climate change.
Interestingly, according to findings by a survey of Yolanda-hit areas led by foremost mangrove expert Dr. Jurgenne Primavera, mangrove restoration efforts need not even be that costly, as mangroves are basically built to survive.
“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… After all, [mangroves] are bioshields. Damage-cum-recovery is part of their course.” – Dr. Jurgenne Primavera