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Zamboanga del Norte Project

In cooperation with the Regional Fisheries Livelihood Program (RFLP) of the UN Food and Agriculture, EcoWEB has facilitated a Disaster Risk Reduction programming in the municipalities of Manukan, Katipunan and Roxas in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. EcoWEB provided specialist technical assistance for the establishment of standard and innovative Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) mechanisms and strategies, design a DRRM early warning system (EWS) and response mechanism for adoption by local authorities, identify and provide essential logistical support to the LGUs in order to ensure effective institutional and logistical capability for DRRM.

The coverage of the technical assistance included the 9 municipalities and 2 cities of Zamboanga del Norte.  The project area  is situated in the Western border of Mindanao and drops in the northwestern rim of the Zamboanga Peninsula with more or less 400 kilometers of irregular coastline facing Sulu Sea. It is bounded on the northwest by Sulu Sea, on the Southeast by Misamis Occidental and on the Southwest by Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay. Its western and northern spheres are seafronts, the Sulu Sea and the Bohol Sea. 

The poverty incidence of the province as of 2006 is posted at 63 percent which ranks 2nd among the ten poorest provinces in the Philippines.  Seven of the top 40 poorest municipalities in the country are in Zamboanga del Norte (NSCB Philippine Poverty Statistics). 

The 400 kilometers coastline of the province is irregular and generally rocky with occasional limited stretches of sandy or gravelly beaches in the western coast. The coastal profile usually descends abruptly seaward.  In some places, coral reefs and/or mangrove swamps with characteristics of tortuous tidal channels also border the coast.   The mangrove stands in the province has declined over the years resulting from conversion to fishpond and saltbeds.

Overview of Hazard Profiles

The MGB reports that the province of Zamboanga del Norte, specifically, the 2 cities and 9 municipalities, are identified to be vulnerable to hydrometeorological and geologic hazards due to its geographic configuration and coastal location. Based on the DRA as of September 2011 assisted by the NEDA, the natural hazards initially identified to have affected the province are flooding, erosion, water and air pollution, and saline intrusion.

Flooding causes heavy damages to crops, infrastructure and housing, and the saturation of delicate soil surfaces that are important in sustaining agricultural production.  Coastal floods occur when strong onshore winds push the water inland, causing a rise in sea level and flooding the low-lying coastal areas.

During the project implementation, flooding that occurred in the province was brought by Tropical cyclone Lando which affected the two cities of Dipolog and Dapitan and the municipalities of Katipunan, Manukan, Sindangan and Leon B. Postigo. A total of 905 families were affected and 4,318 persons. Two hundred seventy-eight (278) houses were completely destroyed and 292 partially damaged.  Total cost of damage to infrastructure, agriculture and private properties were estimated at PhP14.19 Million.

According to the province’s DRA, the problem of erosion has increased potential hazards and risk of disasters that can affect the general populace. Currently, 58 percent of the land area, or 425,150.40 hectares, has been severely eroded and only 11 percent or 79,260.34 hectares has not been plagued by erosion. Eighteen (18) percent or 129,706.90 hectares are moderately eroded while an area of 95,978.36 hectares or 13 percent is subject to slight erosion. This environmental problem is alarming as it reduces soil fertility and cripples crop yields for the farmers while affecting the coastal and marine resources as well.

Similarly, denudation of the forest has become a major environmental concern of Zamboanga del Norte. The unabated “kaingin” (slash-and-burn) practices and illegal and unregulated logging threatens the upland environment and the downstream impacts to coastal communities can be far reaching.

In certain parts of the province, air and water pollution are also evident. Mine tailings from point sources in the uplands have significantly contributed to pollution of rivers and coastal waters, endangering fish and other marine resources. The application of poison chemicals in fishing is likewise posing an environmental hazard.  Stockpiling of chromite sand in a particular area that has mining operations has allegedly contributed to air and water pollution.

On the other hand, sediments and organic wastes also contribute a significant degree of pollution in the sea.  In many areas, sediments combine with various organic and inorganic wastes and become sequestered in the water column as soon as they reach the sea through river systems and drainage facilities.  Most eventually settle to the bottom and blankets many benthic communities of plant and animals and subsequently affects a host of other linked ecosystems.  The effects of siltation are far reaching and the synergy of the deposits has not been assessed in areas covered by the Project.   Biodiversity and natural capabilities of benthic communities in nearshore waters are invariably altered and some fisheries become unproductive because of murky waters.  The negative effects of siltation are felt low in the marine food chain itself.  By reducing the amount of sunlight penetration in the water, primary food production is reduced to a commensurate degree and this affects larvae development of fish and crustaceans in the long run.  In the rivers, pollution invariably affects river fisheries as the excessive turbidity destroys breeding grounds of freshwater fishes and detracts natural recruitment capacity.  Eventually, polluted rivers become anaerobic and detrimental to organisms and animals that are commercially beneficial to the local populace.  This is particularly true in Murciellagos Bay where the culture of bivalves - filter-feeding mussels and oysters, which are lucrative marine products in view of their increasing scarcity and deteriorating quality, can only be cultured sustainably and profitably where river systems are relatively cleaner and coastal waters are safe from unpredictable algal blooms.  The pollution of waters through organic matter and mine tailing overload is suspected as well as the primary trigger for algal blooms that lead to anaerobic conditions causing fish kills, and the outbreak of the dreaded Red Tide organism that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning or PSP.  The latter condition not only destroys the viability of shellfish fisheries but causes untold health hazards on the fish-eating population.

The realities of climate change and the topographic features of the province plus the high incidence of poverty, lack of knowledge on DRRRM and absence of institutional support system render the province highly vulnerable to disasters both natural and human induced.