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. ###