Paje calls on local officials to enforce ‘no man’s land’ rule in permanent danger zones

Report
from Government of the Philippines
Published on 08 Dec 2012 View Original

QUEZON CITY, Dec. 8 -- Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje called on local government units (LGUs) to strictly enforce the “no man’s land” rule in permanent danger zones identified by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to mitigate the effects of flashfloods and landslides.

Paje in a statement said the massive devastation following the onslaught of Typhoon “Pablo” should prompt LGUs to review and carefully study the geohazard maps prepared by the MGB to pinpoint barangays in their areas of jurisdiction that are prone to landslides and floods.

He said the DENR has distributed to LGUs, down to the 42,000 barangays nationwide, close to 70,000 copies of the geohazard maps with a scale of 1:50,000, which can also be viewed on the websites of the DENR (www.denr.gov.ph), the MGB (www.mgb.gov.ph), the Philippine Information Agency (www.pia.gov.ph), and the Environmental Science for Social Change (www.essc.org.ph). The MGB is also completing maps on a more detailed scale of 1:10,000.

“We really have a strong coordination with the LGUs, but we think the LGUs must have the political will to evacuate and, even at the worst scenario, force the evacuation in certain areas or communities that are within permanent danger zones,” Paje said in same statement.

Paje said several portions of New Bataan town in Compostela Valley, which was hardest hit by the typhoon, are categorized as permanent danger zones, owing to wide-spread small-scale mining activities. These are also considered watershed areas.

He added that LGUs have been repeatedly requested to enforce the no man’s land policy within permanent danger zones despite the refusal by residents to vacate the mining site in fear of losing their livelihood.

“As I’ve mentioned it’s not only an environment issue; it’s also a poverty issue. People would dismiss warnings and say ‘We’re fine here because we have something to eat or we have money to buy us food,’ even if it’s very risky,” Paje said.

“But we would like to protect their lives. And if possible give them other sources of livelihood so that we can take them out of these permanent danger zones. This is why we are making these maps. They are to be used not only for planning, but to save lives,” he added.

On the MGB geohazard maps, landslide-prone areas are marked red and flood-prone areas are marked purple.

Paje said the municipality of New Bataan, particularly Barangay Andap, was inside the purple marking, meaning it was “highly susceptible to flashfloods.”

He said the area of the village hall and gym, where evacuees were temporary sheltered when flashfloods swamped them, was actually marked purple on the geohazard map.

“Barangay Andap, particularly the village hall and gym, is right beside the river. The people who were evacuated thought that area was safe and secure. However, these structures were washed away by the floods. That’s the reason why the casualty in Barangay Andap is the highest,” Paje explained.

MGB Director Leo Jasareno in the same statement said that based on the 2006 geohazard assessment, 25 percent of Compostela Valley was considered high risk for landslides, while 23 percent was high risk for flooding.

He said that in New Bataan, 38 percent of the barangays were highly-prone to landslides and another 44 percent to flooding, while more than 60 villages in the province outside New Bataan are considered landslide-prone. (DENR)