Gov't to mitigate future calamities through environmental approach

By Jan Karl C. Coballes

QUEZON CITY, Nov. 17 (PIA) – The government plans to provide environmental response to the disastrous flooding that devastated the region and other areas of Luzon from November 12 to 14, according to Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque in yesterday's online press briefing on the situation of Cagayan Valley days after the onslaught of the recent typhoon Ulysses.

According to Roque, President Rodrigo Duterte plans to strengthen the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' (DENR) forest protection efforts against illegal logging and mining, so that the recent tragedy that befell Cagayan Valley and the rest of Luzon would be avoided during future storms. Different local government units are expected to be involved in this endeavor.

In addition to this, the President also instructed the DENR to investigate the link between landslides and unauthorized mining operations in Cagayan Valley, where most of the said typhoon's fatalities have occurred.

Simultaneously, the DENR has taken the initiative in setting up plans to control future flooding in Cagayan by augmenting the bottleneck in the Magapit River, which causes severe flooding in several towns. This project is in conjunction with the agency's aim to conduct dredging activities in the heavily silted Cagayan River, as well as widespread tree planting.

According to the DENR, an estimated 200 million trees are ready to be planted once the project will be finalized by the agency, local government units (LGUs), and the private sector.

In support of the massive tree planting, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is planning to look into the possibility of requiring applicants for public transportation franchises to plant trees as part of the application process. The DOTr will coordinate with the DENR and LGUs in identifying areas in need of reforestation.

Typhoon Ulysses is the latest of several typhoons and storms that struck the country in the last quarter of 2020. Aside from the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela, Metro Manila and other provinces that were on the path of the typhoon also experienced severe flooding as well as fatalities.

On the other hand, Super Typhoon Rolly, which hit the Philippines just two weeks earlier, wreaked untold havoc in the Bicol Region, and nearby areas.

In the wake of these natural calamities, the government is now drafting an executive order to establish a task force composed of several government agencies, mandated to speed up rehabilitation of communities affected by storms or typhoons.

The Philippines, being located in the Pacific typhoon belt, is hit by an average of 20 typhoons per year, with some reaching record-breaking intensities worldwide. This, according to Roque, is the rationale for the government's plan to create a permanent body that will concentrate and specialize on post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery of typhoon-affected areas. (JKC/PIA-IDPD)