LGUs dared: Enforce disaster risk reduction law firmly

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Monday, December 23, 2013

CEBU CITY -- Implement the law “as if it’s your last term.”

An official of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD)-Central Visayas made the call to local government officials as he stressed the need to protect lives by enforcing the disaster risk reduction and management law.

“Local leaders should implement the law with an attitude,” OCD-Central Visayas Operations Division Chief Ver Neil Balaba said in a recent forum organized by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

The OCD’s reminder came as the Cebu Provincial Government prepared to conduct seminars for local officials, health workers and residents of towns affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The series of workshops are supposed to help officials and affected residents identify their needs in the rehabilitation and recovery phases.

No-build zones

In the PIA forum, Balaba said that local government units (LGUs) should review their comprehensive land use plans and make sure risky areas, like seashores and riverbanks, are free of inhabitants.

Republic Act 10121or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 mandates LGUs to form a local disaster risk reduction and management office, design programs and activities on disaster preparedness, and operate a multi-hazard early warning system, among others.

Under the law, LGUs should also identify, assess and manage hazards and risks.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently declared areas within 40 meters from the seashore as “no-build zones.”

Super Typhoon Yolanda, one of the strongest typhoons recorded in world history, killed more than 6,000 people, mostly in Leyte province. The typhoon caused storm surges or big waves that wiped out coastal villages in Tacloban City and the adjacent town of Palo.

Early warnings

Balaba said the OCD, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and other concerned agencies were not remiss in their duty to prepare the public for the typhoon, which battered Leyte, Samar, Cebu and other islands in the Visayas last November 8.

“A week earlier, Pagasa had been warning about the typhoon,” Balaba said. The sheer strength of the typhoon overwhelmed the affected local government units and the residents, Balaba said.

He said the media also play an important role, and raised the need for journalists to be better informed of the government’s system in preparing for and responding to disasters.

Balaba also recommended that journalists and meteorological experts conduct a seminar to address the public’s poor understanding of weather advisories.

“Media practitioners should be trained how to handle information from specialists,” he said.

In the wake of Yolanda, Pagasa was widely criticized for allegedly failing to make the public understand what a storm surge is.

Meanwhile, Capitol consultant Baltazar Tribunalo said the workshops in the 16 LGUs in northern Cebu affected by Yolanda are among the activities that will be funded by the P26.8-billion budget proposed for the rehabilitation and recovery program.

Specific needs

Of the P26.8-billion investment requirement of the Capitol, P1.2 billion is for the plan implementation and coordination mechanism.

Last week, the Regional Development Council-Central Visayas approved the rehabilitation and recovery plan of the Capitol for the 15 towns and one city affected by the typhoon last November 8.

These include Bantayan, Sta. Fe, Madridejos, San Francisco, Pilar, Poro, Tudela, Tabuelan, Tuburan, San Remegio, Tabogon, Borbon, Sogod, Daanbantayan, Medellin and Bogo City.

Tribunalo, head of Task Force Paglig-on, said the workshop will help them identify they specific needs of each LGU.

Aside from local officials, barangay health workers, residents and other stakeholders will be asked to participate.

Some P1.2 billion was proposed to fund the meals, transportation and other logistics for the workshops.

In the workshop held recently in Daanbantayan and Bantayan Island, shelter was identified as the immediate need of the people, Tribunalo said.

The rehabilitation plan approved by the RDC and its investment requirement will be endorsed to the National Government for approval and inclusion in its budget for rehabilitation of areas affected by Yolanda.

As specified in the Province’s rehabilitation and recovery program, families living near the shoreline will be provided with housing materials and shelter repair kits for permanent housing, toilet facilities and relocation sites. (RSB/FMG/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 23, 2013.

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