Samar and Leyte

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Samar and Leyte

Located in Eastern Visayas, Samar and Leyte are comprised of the provinces of Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte, and Biliran. San Juanico Strait separates the major islands of Samar and Leyte and is connected by the longest bridge in the Philippines, the historical San Juanico Bridge.

Samar and Leyte are home to natural parks and tourist hotspots due to its lush terrain and geographical features, making it a haven for nature lovers and those seeking recreational activities. The challenge now is in keeping it that way.

  • Samar is the third biggest island in the Philippines, consisting of Northern Samar, Western Samar and Eastern Samar.
  • There are 10 proclaimed protected areas in Samar and Leyte. Samar Island Natural Park has the largest area with Guiuan Protected Landscape and Seascape second.
  • Samar island has the largest closed canopy forest and mangrove forest in the region.
  • Samar comprises the largest unfragmented tracts of lowland rainforest in the country. Its biodiversity which includes 38 species of mammal which 50% is endemic; 215 species of birds with 55% endemic; 51 species of reptiles which is 69% endemic; 26 amphibian with 52% species is endemic and over 1000 species of plants.
  • The prevalence of mangroves in the coastline of Eastern Visayas, somehow curbed the destruction brought about by typhoon Yolanda. Pagatpat and Miapi mangrove species proved to withstand the storm surges.

Road Construction and Development
The Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP), otherwise known as Samar Roads Rehabilitation Project, is a $222.5 Million endeavor to rehabilitate 222 km of road networks connecting Paranas in Western Samar to Guian Eastern Samar. The road network is expected to improve economic activities and access to social services for more than 280,000 residents of the region.

At the onset of the project, a total of 3000 trees was projected to be uprooted to give way to the road rehabilitation program. To mitigate the possible impact to the ecosystem, DENR and DPWH, signed an agreement ensuring only 3000 will be affected and an addition thereof will be the liability of the contractor.

All in all, SNRDP clear-cut 7,739 trees in favour of the economic development of the island. As per DENR, tree-cutting is not allowed except through road right of way especially if the program is included in the General Appropriations Act.

Institutional Capacities
Despite the vast area of Eastern Visayas, environmental offices with appropriate jurisdiction within the region is still lacking. Out of 139 towns and seven cities, only 11 has a Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) namely: Palo, Albuera, Baybay, Maasin, San Juan, Catbalogan, Sta. Rita, Borongan, Dolores, Catarman and Pambujan. The absence or lack of environmental offices proves to hinder the implementation of national and local ordinances aimed at the protection, rehabilitation and conservation of forests and biodiversity in Eastern Visayas.

Samar Island is one of the most impoverished regions of the Philippines, with as much as 45% of the population living below the national poverty line. Hence, there is a need to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for forest-dependent communities.

Samar and Leyte’s economic growth need not come at the expense of the environment. Development and livelihood programs should complement the existing environmental plans of the landscape. In addition, as an agricultural region, Samar and Leyte is heavily dependent on the resources of its forests. Hence, protection of the natural resources is needed. To protect the forests of the landscape, we have allocated Php 64M in grants.