Maximize the use of geohazard maps for disaster management, DENR strongly urges LGUs

In light of recent tragedies involving landslides that struck MIMAROPA, the Bicol Region, and Eastern Visayas due to typhoon Usman, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has sternly reminded local government units (LGUs) that geohazard maps are readily available to them and strongly urges LGU Chief Executives, as chair local disaster risk reduction and management councils (LDRRMCs) at the provincial, city, and municipal levels.

During the traditional DENR New Year's Call for the agency's top officials held at the DENR central office in Quezon City, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu reiterated that under Republic Act No. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, local chief executives are tasked to chair local disaster risk reduction and management councils (LDRRMCs) at the provincial, city, and municipal levels. It is the council’s responsibility to come up with disaster management and risk reduction plans that will minimize if not totally prevent casualties during calamities.

"The DENR for its part contributes to DRR efforts through the geohazard maps which the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) distributes to all LGUs so they can identify landslide and flood-prone areas," Cimatu said.

Under the said law, LDRRMCs should set the direction, development, implementation and coordination of DRRM programs within their areas.

This includes integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local development plans and programs, as well as recommending forced or preemptive evacuation of residents if necessary.

“I believe that through these maps, the DENR has done its part in protecting the lives of the Filipino people,” Cimatu pointed out. “We encourage LGUs to work hand in hand with us to protect our people.”

DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and LGU Concerns Benny Antiporda said concerned local officials should utilize the geohazard maps, which are also available online through the MGB website at mgb.gov.ph, as basis of crafting LDRRM Plans.

The MGB has also been conducting information, education and communication (IEC) campaigns to help LGUs and communities use and understand the maps.

Antiporda added that disasters are bound to happen but based on these maps, local officials can come up, and have in place, disaster risk reduction and management plans or precautionary measures to save lives and avoid damage to property in their areas of jurisdiction.

“These (maps) are even color-coded to indicate areas that are high risk or with high susceptibility to landslides and floods. Thus, having no appropriate information is not an excuse,” Secretary Cimatu said.

“Given this, LGUs have the obligation to tell the people of the danger of staying in an area for the sake of their livelihood,” DENR Secretary emphasized.

Antiporda lamented that the recent landslide incident took place in the Bicol region, particularly Albay province, which has always been known as a model in disaster risk reduction and management.

“It’s time for Albay to re-study their preparation and their systems,” Antiporda said. “If climate changes, then better protection should be provided to people.”

The DENR official reiterated that in the hierarchy of priorities, life comes first before natural resources and livelihood.

He added that the DENR has taken the proactive stance to build relationships with LGUs and the people to protect lives.

The DENR’s Geohazard Mapping and Assessment Program is an on-going priority program which is being implemented by the MGB. Its main objective is to identify areas in the country which are susceptible or vulnerable to various geologic hazards. Under this Program, the 1:10,000 scale landslide and flood susceptibility assessment of 1,634 cities and municipalities were completed. Through the use of these maps, communities at risk can better prepare for natural hazards and avoid disaster. ### 

DENR vows more aggressive enforcement of environment laws in 2019

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be more aggressive in enforcing environmental laws and regulations in 2019 in order to sustain the momentum created by the much lauded rehabilitation of Boracay Island and other accomplishments of the agency last year.

“This year, I hope to send a strong message to environmental offenders and to the public of our seriousness in implementing and enforcing environmental laws, rules and regulations,” Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said during the traditional DENR New Year’s Call held at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

The New Year’s Call is where the Secretary meets with all DENR officials and employees to announce the policy direction for the agency and set the priority programs and projects to be implemented for the rest of the year. The annual gathering also gives the DENR chief the chance to present the agency’s accomplishments in the previous year.

Cimatu described the Boracay rehabilitation, which was carried out by the DENR and other members of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force as the “centerpiece of our 2018 accomplishments.”

“With the eyes of the world upon us, we set forth to do what cynics thought was impossible: to transform a cesspool back to being one of the world’s best beaches and swimming destinations, within a period of only 6 months,” Cimatu said.

He added: “In Boracay, our mettle was put to test. We not only passed that test, but also carried over the momentum to other prime ecotourism destinations like El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Panglao Island in Bohol, and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro.”

Cimatu said the Boracay’s success had spawned demands for replication so the DENR decided to have the rehabilitation of Manila Bay as its “next big target.”

The Manila Bay rehabilitation, he said, calls for a change in approach considering that its water quality has not improved despite a Supreme Court mandamus for its cleanup issued a decade ago.

“We are putting up a Manila Bay command center, we will get the local government units more involved, and we will be more aggressive in enforcing environmental laws, particularly against the dischaege of untreated wastewater into the bay,” Cimatu disclosed.

Apart from the Boracay rehabilitation, Cimatu said the DENR, through the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), was also successful in enforcing the Clean Water Act in other parts of the country in 2018.

The NWRB caused the closure of 486 commercial establishments illegally operating deep wells. It also slapped Pepsi Cola Products Inc. with a hefty fine of P11.8 million for operating 6 deep wells in Muntinlupa City without the necessary permits.

Cimatu also commended the combined forces of the DENR, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Cebu City government in apprehending those responsible in the butcher and sale of more than 100 kilograms of raw meat of endangered green sea turtles.

In closing, Cimatu rallied DENR officials and employees to let the success in Boracay “fuel our spirits in facing the challenges before us in 2019” and keep in mind that their mandate in the agency “transcends our personal needs, wants and interest.”

“In our hands and on our shoulders, lie the future of our nation. In the crucial 11th hour facing climate change and all its chilling effects, we are at a very critical time to make dramatic changes,” Cimatu stressed. # 

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