Virac town has relocation sites for 9 high-risk villages

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- Virac town Mayor Flerida Alberto said she has started to prepare a relocation site for some 1,080 households or 5,400 villagers in the coastal barangays that are highly vulnerable to storm surge and sea level rise.

Alberto recalled the devastation almost ten years ago due to super typhoon “Reming” (international name: “Durian”) which devastated the island-province of Catanduanes, which faces the Pacific Ocean.

“I don’t want a repeat as much as possible on how the people in the coastal barangays suffered,” said Alberto as she glanced Monday afternoon beyond the window of the town hall as the forest covers have recovered and look refreshingly green on every side of the tall mountains, forcing a barrier from the Pacific Ocean at the west.

On Nov. 29 almost ten years ago, with deadly gusts of 240 kph - 260 kph and went past 280 towards 300 kph, Reming roared towards Northern Samar and Catanduanes.

Fueled by the warm Philippine Sea along the Bicol Region, the howler devastated Catanduanes, inflicting damage on coastal towns of Sorsogon due to raging sea waves.

The super typhoon stripped off the forests of Catanduanes, destroying 80 percent of all its houses and buildings, and ramming ships and tankers aground.

Even the anemometer at state weather bureau station at Virac conked out after registering a 320 kph gust.

It was the signature of the country's most powerful typhoon in the country’s history from 1947 to 2009.

“Our capital town as well as all the coastal towns in the country are highly vulnerable to very strong storm surge as the sea level rises due to global warming,” said Alberto.

As part of disaster risk reduction, the municipality has bought a nine-hectare land at the San Isidro village, about three kilometers from the town proper.

“The area is located higher than where they are staying now and serves as an immediate evacuation and relocation site,” Alberto said during an interview at her office last Monday.

She said some offices of the national government agency like the Bureau of Internal Revenue(BIR) has already relocated to the same area.

“But our priority right now is the construction of the public market and after this, we will work on the relocation site and the transfer of the town buildings,” she said.

She recalled that typhoon "Loling" also affected the island province.

Alberto said the nine barangays to be relocated are Palnab, Conception, San Pablo, San Juan, Salvacion, Sta. Cruz, Rawis, Francia, and San Vicente.

The 2012 Asian Development Bank (ADB) study ‘’Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific’’ said the Philippines is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change and it is ranked fifth in terms of individuals affected by sea level rise.

The ADB study said if the sea level rise, its will affect at least 13.6 million Filipinos who will have to relocate to higher, safer places.

Also, the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Climate Change Program showed that some 167,290 hectares of seashore land in 171 coastal towns under 10 provinces would go under water if the sea level rises by one meter.

Although Catanduanes is not one of the ten provinces mentioned in the study -- like Cagayan, Palawan, Iloilo, Zamboanga Sibugay, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Bohol, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu -- the island province is facing the vast Pacific Ocean. (PNA) CTB/FGS/AT/CBD