September 25, 2018

IF THERE is something positive that could be dredged from the killer landslide that recently hit the City of Naga, it is the raising of people’s awareness regarding landslides. One can equate this with the killer storm surges that hit Tacloban City at the height of super typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Now local government units and ordinary people include storm surges in the things they need to watch out for when storms hit our shores.

In June 2016, or before then newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte could assume his post, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) uploaded on its website the detailed landslide and flood geohazard maps that can be viewed for free.

The initiative was part of the DENR-MGB National Geohazard Assessment Program under the administration of Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. It assessed the landslide and flood susceptibility of 1,634 cities and municipalities.

Those geohazard maps are essentially weapons against calamities. The problem, however is whether these are being used consciously and properly or not. When Yolanda was about to enter the Philippine area of responsibility, the warning on possible storm surges issued by Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) wasn’t heeded or didn’t guide well Tacloban’s storm preparation.

No doubt the MGB tried to raise awareness about the existence of these geohazard maps, even going to the extent of distributing printed copies of these and explaining to local government officials how to use them. But there’s a difference in terms of knowledge between studying geohazard maps during normal times and studying these when disaster is staring government officials in the face.

MGB people should be active participants in disaster risk reduction efforts by local government units by guiding them on the use of geohazard maps especially in areas that are in the path of typhoons or would be affected by such weather disturbances as heavy rains, storm surges and thunderstorms. More so in places where economic activity has disturbed the geological setup like in mining and quarry sites.

It would be tragic if we are being provided the instruments to prepare for disasters but fail to use these for unfortunate reasons.

Source: Sunstar Cebu