Siargao Mangrove, Del Carmen Municipality, Philippines

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UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS

Education Division

  • Bachelor of Secondary Education
  • Bachelor of Technical Teacher Education

Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology

Major:

  • Architechtural Drafting Technology
  • Automotive Technology
  • Electrical Technology
  • Electronics Technology

College of Engineering and Information Technology

  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Information System
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
  • Diploma in Technology major in Information Technology

The Huge Damage from the Typhoon

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In the last three decades, Siargao has become a mecca for surfers from all over the world who flock to Cloud 9 and other beaches where the swells from the Pacific Ocean roll towards reef shallows and the rocky shoreline. Most of the holidaymakers stay in General Luna, where entrepreneurs like Honasan have set up restaurants and resorts, and shops, all of them ravaged by typhoon Odette which caused an estimated P20 billion in damage in Siargao.

Initially, Siargao residents were told it would take six months before power and communications would return to normal, but after a month, mobile phone signal was back, said Honasan. “Kasi ang dami ngang may investments dito yung (because there are so many investments here,) recovery [was] super fast,” he said. “And a lot of these people, hindi lang investment (not just investment). Dito nakatira (They live here). This is home. Yung experience nga namin (that's our experience), if a super typhoon was not enough to kick us off the island, nothing will,” added Honasan, whose restaurant Kanin Baboy was obliterated by Odette.

Half a year on, General Luna is bustling once more, with pandemic-weary tourists flocking to resorts and eateries that have managed to reopen their business. Construction of new tourism establishments that had been going on before the typhoon resumed, along with renovation of shops and other buildings that were partially destroyed by the disaster.

Driving along the circumferential road of Siargao, however, the remnants of the typhoon’s destructive force are still everywhere. Roofless and hollowed-out buildings seem to have been abandoned, while toppled trees and poles litter the slopes and shoreline.

At the municipal hall of Del Carmen, visitors are greeted by piles of soiled records and a jumble of furniture, in stark contrast to its sparkling and tidy interiors before the typhoon. Inside her office, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Gina Barquilla moved her table towards the center, as the concrete wall behind her had collapsed, bending inwards at an awkward angle. Their ceiling is gone, revealing a mass of tangled wires. She says the typhoon has taught them to design their offices to suit local conditions, observing that the lightweight material for the ceiling was not suitable for places that are vulnerable to storms. Even the island’s evacuation center turned out to be inappropriate for Siargao, which is within the Philippines’ typhoon belt, as the roof caved in when Odette pummeled populated areas and the last refuge that evacuees could find was the building’s toilet.

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Soiled records and construction material share space in the lobby of the municipal hall of Del Carmen, which suffered massive damage from Typhoon Odette / Credit: Daphne Padilla.

Despite the wide swathe of destruction, Del Carmen Mayor Alfredo Coro II believes “we did something right” in preparing for the storm, with Siargao recording a minimal death toll of 15 out of 200,000 residents. Many coastal villagers have reported that the island’s extensive mangrove forests protected houses from huge waves, lessening damage and casualties.

In barangay Caub, which is part of Del Carmen, fisher Tarepe shared a fishing vessel with neighbors to continue making a living after the typhoon, before managing to gather enough wood to build his own boat. At P200 per kilo of octopus, he earns up to P2,500 on a good day.

Decline in coral cover and fish abundance

To assess the impact of the typhoon on Siargao’s marine resources, the international conservation NGO Rare commissioned the Marine Environment and Resource Foundation (MERF) to survey the damage last March, comparing the condition of previously studied sites before and after the storm. The results, released in August, painted a bleak picture for many marine protected areas (MPAs).

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Table 1.1 / Credit: MERF.

Live coral cover declined sharply in all sites, with Odette’s waves dislodging even massive corals in Siargao’s shallow reefs, such as those in Barangay Caub. One of the worst hit was the town of Burgos, on the northeastern tip of the main island, where coral cover was reduced to 10 percent from the previous 50 percent, indicating the brutal strength of the typhoon’s waves. But in General Luna, where the fringing reefs also face the Pacific Ocean like Burgos, the damage was much lower. “This could be attributed to corals being accustomed to strong waves. They are exposed to swells coming from the Pacific on a daily basis. As a result, corals in this area have adapted to such harsh conditions,” the report said. (See Table 1.1)

Fish populations suffered a significant decrease in almost half of the surveyed sites, both inside and outside MPAs. Barangay Caub was again hit hard, with fish abundance reduced to half after Odette and the biggest decline recorded in commercially important species. Researchers also noted a “very alarming” decrease in fish biomass in the town of Pilar, where “the reef was almost deserted with fewer individuals per species encountered during the assessment.” Anecdotes from fishers indicated that the temporary lifting of the ban on fishing inside MPAs in some towns after the typhoon, an emergency measure arising from limited food resources, could have contributed to the decrease in numbers and sizes of fish. There was also weaker law enforcement inside municipal waters after patrol boats were destroyed and most personnel also became typhoon victims. (See Table 1.2)

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Table 1.2 / Credit: MERF.

On a positive note, at least three study sites recorded higher fish abundance after the disaster. Researchers observed that Typhoon Odette’s strong waves may have brought nutrients from deeper waters, resulting in the increase in population of plankton-eating marine life. This could have a long-term impact on Siargao’s reef fisheries and explains the higher fish biomass inside MPAs in San Benito and Socorro towns where such species were observed in abundance.

Compared with other popular tourist destinations, the entire Siargao island group holds a unique identity as a priority site for conservation because of its terrestrial, wetland, and marine ecosystems, with a high proportion of plant and animal species found only in the area. One of the initial sites included in the country’s Integrated Protected Areas System, it was proclaimed as the Siargao Islands Protected Landscapes and Seascapes (SIPLAS) in 1996 covering all nine municipalities and 48 islands within Siargao and Bucas Grande. Marine areas comprise a huge section of SIPLAS, at 76 percent, making its coastal resources a major focus for protection.