Coastal communities forge unity against ‘Great Wall of Leyte’ project

October 28, 2016


Palo, Leyte—Representatives from communities along government-declared No Dwelling Zones (NDZ) who will be affected by the Road Heightening and Tide Embankment of Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan Project forged unity against the implementation of the megaproject after a forum held today by the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC). The forum dubbed “Tide Embankment, For Whom?” was a presentation of CEC’s recently concluded 5-day Environmental Investigative Mission (EIM).

The project, otherwise known as the “Great Wall of Leyte,” aims to construct a 27.3 kilometer stretch of embankment from Barangay Diit of Tacloban to Barangay Cabuynan in Tanauan, Leyte. The project will displace more than 10,000 residents living along the shores and will have impacts on their livelihood and the environment. The TE project is also considered as one of the largest infrastructural projects related to Yolanda rehabilitation.

In a press release yesterday, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said it will proceed with the construction of some sections of the kilometers-stretch project.

Meanwhile, the EIM conducted by CEC together with partner scientists from AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) further investigate on the project’s environmental and socio-economic impacts. Initial results of the research was presented earlier today in Palo, Leyte.

Tide embankment may affect mangroves, swamp areas

According to AGHAM which is doing a technical review on the project, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) does not thoroughly discuss the impacts on mangrove areas and swamp environments that will potentially be affected.

“There was mere mention of how many barangays have mangrove areas, and tabular presentation of species found in an island, which is not necessarily part of the impact area. However, the areal extent of mangrove areas to be affected are not indicated. Moreover, there was no mention of potential impacts on these ecosystems due to the tide embankment’s disruption of sediment, water, and solute fluxes between the inland and coastal areas,” Ric Saturay, resident geologist of AGHAM said.

“The EIS does not present, or even imply, a systematic model for coastal risk assessment which situates the proposed structural solution within the broader context of the problem being addressed and the biophysical and socioeconomic systems to be affected. Without a model that provides a holistic view of the problem, certain aspects of the intervention are likely to be overlooked,” he further said.

CEC’s resident biologist Julius Gopez who led a team to conduct rapid mangrove assessment in the affected areas said approximately 97 hectares of mangrove areas will be affected by the project. The EIM Technical Team visited mangrove areas in the barangays of Anibong and Naga-naga in Tacloban and mangrove areas in Barangay Cogon, Palo and Tanauan, Leyte.

“Newly planted species could also be found in the areas to be affected by the megaproject,” Gopez reported.

Gopez stressed the importance of mangroves as natural buffers or “bioshield” from waves and storm surges. Mangroves also store carbons which are important in the face of climate change. They also serve as breeding habitats and can be a source of livelihood for the community along the coast.

“Php38 million was allotted for mangrove/beach forest planting along the coasts through Leyte Gulf Rehabilitation program. This effort to replant which, based on our research team even mobilized beneficiaries of DSWD’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCT), seems inconsistent with the Tide Embankment project that may potentially affect the growth of mangroves in the three towns,” Gopez commented.

Little to no information

Meanwhile, the EIM also revealed that the residents have little to no information regarding the Tide Embankment project. The EIM team studying the socio-economic impacts of the project interviewed residents in Barangay Candahug, Baras, Cogon in Palo, Barangay Sto. Nino and Bislig in Tanauan and Magallanes and Barangay 89 & 90 in San Jose, Tacloban.

“We noted general trends based on their responses to our questions. For one, there is little to no information provided to affected residents,” April Porteria, CEC’s Head Researcher said. “Some of them have not seen the design of the project yet, while others just learned about the project when DPWH employees came to assess their houses,” she added.

She said while there were public consultations held like that in Candahug, the level of consultation was merely about informing the residents that a project is about to start and that they will be affected.

“Another trend is how the people affected see the project as really affecting their livelihood. Most of those we interviewed were small fisherfolks, buko vendors, small resort owners. So far, it’s consistent that they want to stay in these areas simply because their sources of income are in these sites,” she said.

“A significant amount of respondents also said that instead of constructing the Tide Embankment, the government should better construct safe and permanent evacuation centers,” Porteria further said.

CEC said the EIM is still ongoing and another pool of scientists will conduct field validation this November. Meanwhile, the affected communities  will be sending a petition addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte urging him to stop the project.

CEC’s Julius Gopez presenting the map of mangroves in Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan that will be affected by the tide embankment.

CEC’s Julius Gopez presenting the map of mangroves in Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan that will be affected by the tide embankment.