MANILA, Philippines-Aside from an intensive ‘no build zone’ implementation, a beach forest plantation project is also underway in typhoon Yolanda–ravaged areas in central Philippines, said Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

Coloma, showing a map on the span of the coastal destruction indicating about 380 kilometer or 760 hectare coverage of mangrove and beach forest plantation in coastal towns of Leyte and Samar badly hit by the storm surge brought by the typhoon, said the move is also in consonance with the government’s climate change adaptation program.

According to Coloma, Pres. Benigno Aquino III has issued directive to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the “no build zone” implementation by the local government units.

Noticing the “total built up” of buildings and communities intruding the Leyte gulf, Coloma, pointed out that “all the coastal areas were heavily damage” as shown in the aerial photos before and after the typhoon.

“That is why DENR has delineated all of these areas  as ‘no build zone’ in line of the provision of the Water Code,” Coloma said.

Citing Article 51 of the country’s Water Code or PD No. 1067, Coloma indicated that “the banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three (3) meters in urban areas, twenty (20) meters in agricultural areas and forty (40) meters in forest areas, along their margins are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

“No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing or salvage or to build structures of any kind,” the law added.

According to Coloma, the entire coastline of Leyte and Samar island provinces  has been marked with areas of  “no build zone” and being complemented by mangrove reforestation designated areas.

“…The mangroves will act as a shield for the coastline, and if the no build zone provision will be strictly enforced that will greatly likely reduce the likelihood of high casualty here because the human settlement should have been moved farther inward.”

On the concerns of affected fishing community, Coloma said that water-ways will be constructed to provide continuing access on the fishing areas.

“In fact according to DENR, if the mangrove are restored, the mangrove also  provide spawning ground for crustaceans and shell fish, it will even enhance the harvest from the fishing area.”

“Once we’re able to implement the mangrove reforestation, then it’s the 40 meters requirement that will be imposed along the coastline in order to provide a greater safety buffer to our people,” Coloma stressed.

Further explaining the rationale of the no build zone and mangrove preservation, Coloma shared about the situation of Bantayan island in Cebu which according to him “suffered 90 percent damage on structure and properties.”

Coloma expressed confidence that ‘even with more political will, the government will implement this policy given the widespread loss of life and damage brought by typhoon Yolanda.”

He added that “no build zone” can be done as it has already been implemented like in Isla de Oro in Cagayan de Oro, following the flood in 2011.

“Katulad nang nabanggit iyong “No-Build Zone” ay pinapatupad na doon sa Cagayan de Oro, lalung-lalo na kung naaalala ninyo iyong Isla de Oro ay nandoon mismo sa gitna ng Cagayan de Oro River, and there was an order from the President requiring strict compliance na hindi na dapat pamahayan iyong lugar na iyon. You can be certain that even with more political will the government will implement this policy given the widespread loss of life and damage wrought by Typhoon Yolanda.”

“Kaya po pinapakita din natin iyan para magsilbing aral sa ating mga mamamayan dahil hayag na hayag at kitang-kita naman na ang talagang tinamaan ng pinakamalakas na impact ay iyong coastline areas. Samantalang kung napanatili iyong mga mangrove forest na dati ay natural feature of our coastlines siguro ay naiwasan iyong ganyang lalim at lawak ng kalamidad.”

“Samantalang kung napamanaitil yong mga mangrove forest na dati naman ay natural feature ng coastlines , siguro ay maiwasan ang ganyang lalim at lawak ng kalamidad,” he added.

As this developed, Coloma assured that the government continues in extending assistance to the affected communities, adding that “fishing has not been prohibited.”

“Kahit naman naisagawa na iyong “No-Build Zones” ay bibigyan sila ng access sa waterways katulad ng ginawa na dito sa may Manila Bay. Ayon kay Secretary Singson, this will be done purposively because we don’t intend to dislocate or diminish the—dislocate our fishermen or diminish their income. So bibigyan ng atensyon iyong kabuhayan ng mga mangingisda dahil halos naman ng coastal communities ay fishing communities din. Hindi naman iyon mutually exclusive.”

“We don’t intent to dislocate our fisherman and diminish their income,” Coloma assured.

Coloma added that Justice secretary Leila De Lima is tasked to form a “study group” with Science secretary Mario Montejo.

“Kaya nga importante iyong pag-compare ng empirical data, iyong mga before and after, dahil kitang-kita naman dito, ano, na fully built-up iyong mga coastline areas; nandoon lahat nung mga tahanan.”

Asked on government’s response for those who will refuse to obey the provision, Coloma remarked:  “Kaya nga. Kailangan din naman iyong suporta ng mga communities doon sa proposition na ang dapat na mamayani ay iyong kaligtasan ng buhay. Siguro naman kung ito ay tatanggapin nila, magiging katanggap-tanggap din sa kanila iyong proposisyon na kinakailangang mag-relocate.”

This will be part of our post disaster assessment to validate our action on the affected communities, Coloma added.

“Bahagi nga iyan ng patuloy na pag-aaral, iyong tinatawag nating “post disaster needs assessment” is to validate kasi kung tabletop lang, there are so many damaged houses, so many residents, kailangan iyong on the ground validation. So ngayon lang nagtatakda ng mga patakaran para nga hindi na mapahirap iyong rehabilitation. Kasi kung from the outset pa lang nag-mark out na tayo ng—o nag-marka na tayo ng “No-Build Zones,” mas magiging maginhawa in the long term kesa iyong papayagan na naman tapos papaalisin. Hindi naman ganoon kadali iyon.”

“So importante sa ngayon iyong pagtatakda ng tamang patakaran at regulasyon,” Coloma added.

Coloma said that they will do everything in order to reach out to people and convince them on the importance of the program.

Understanding also on the “heavy cost” of relocation, Coloma said that implementation of the program will go on a thorough consultation with the affected communities.

He added they are also ready to work with any non-governmental organizations who has capabilities and good track record about the same program.

Coloma admitted that though the Water Code is nationwide on its application, he added that Leyte and Samar Island provinces are getting the priority “dahil iyan iyong kagyat na suliranin na nilulutas natin.”

Aside from this program, Coloma said the government is committed to construct typhoon-resilient infrastructure in a more higher and safer ground.

The Department of Budget and Management said that  P41 Billion has been allocated for the rehabilitation of the typhoon Yolanda-affected areas in the country, which according to the newly appointed rehabilitation czar former Sen. Ping Lacson would take until 2016 to finish.

Current death toll from the typhoon has already reached 5,632, with a damage of P30.6 billion for both infrastructure and agriculture.

Typhoon surged due to the strong typhoon had also totally damaged 582,841 houses and 586,117 houses partially damaged.