The Philippines government will limit coastal rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan

Tacloban, post-Typhoon Haiyan.
Tacloban, post-Typhoon Haiyan.
Image: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
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Philippines President Benigno Aquino will restrict construction on some of the country’s coastline after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed half a million homes and killed thousands, a move that could dramatically improve the country’s resilience to the next major storm. “Part of the President’s orders is to establish a ‘no-build zone’ along coastlines to ensure the safety of those living in resettlement areas,”  Herminio B. Coloma, the President’s communications operations secretary, said in a radio interview on Sunday.

With climate change raising sea levels and possibly contributing to other extreme weather events that occur far from coasts, whether to reconstruct flooded areas, and how to do it, has become a subject of global debate. President Aquino’s decision runs counter that that of many developed nations, including the United States, who have opted to rebuild after recent floods, including Hurricane Sandy, despite warnings these floods could happen again.

As Quartz reported earlier, development agencies have particularly questioned the wisdom of rebuilding in Tacloban, the coastal Philippines city of over 200,000 that was virtually destroyed in the storm. Tacloban is uniquely vulnerable to natural disasters because much of the city sits at or below sea level, or in the path of landslides.

With over 7,000 islands, more than 22,000 miles of natural coastline, and sea levels that are rising at four times the global rate, a huge number of the Philippines 97 million people live in areas that could be considered future flood zones.

Coloma did not provide additional details about what kinds of construction will be banned. He added, however, that the president has ordered a large-scale, urgent planting of mangroves along the coast. The trees can slow down inland tidal surges, cutting 70 to 90% of a wave’s impact.