Local officials urged to look into geophysical aspects of governance

Diana Velasco, senior geologist of the DENR's Mines and Geosciences Bureau, told the Kapihan sa SM City press conference Monday that local governments must take cognizant of the geophysical aspects of governance such as hazard-prone areas and how lack of understanding of the problem impacts on life and death situations.

Velascos’ pronouncements came as the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council and the government's Office of Civil Defense called the attention of the public and local disaster (response) coordinating councils in the region to brace for the rainy season, which poses threats to flood-prone communities.  

MGB released a list of barangays and towns in the region which had recently completed their geo-hazard study as part of their two-year National Hazard Mapping Program. 

Velasco said they have completed mapping some towns and barangays in Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur and Compostela Valley, and the whole of Davao del Norte.

The MGB official lauded the City Government of Davao for commissioning a terrain analysis last year, which is considered a more comprehensive study of the city's geophysical environment.   

She also cited the example of a barangay in Taragona town, Compostela Valley where the mayor ordered the relocation of around a hundred residents from a threat of mass movement.

Velasco opted against naming the barangays and municipalities whose officials did not appear keen on knowing more about the geological hazards in their areas.

But she also noted that the implementation of the promised relocation sites, are not immediate, some even projected within five to 10 years.

Velasco said among the responses expected are to relocate residents from areas prone to earthquakes or floods, to safer ground.

But she also acknowledged some impediments governing decisions of the LGU: the local calamity funds, made available from five percent of LGUs' annual budget, is used only in responding to actual calamities.

"It should be made available also for use to prevent and prepare before the coming of calamities," she said.

She said they are urging the national government to allow LGUs to use the funds for relocation, a major concern for the public.

But local government capacity seems to be not the only issue at hand.

Velasco said the residents themselves also resist from moving out of their communities despite warnings. She cited that many residents reportedly opt to stay in those areas because that is where their livelihood is.

She said among the concerns they also expressed is the distance of their proposed relocation cites from their means of livelihood.

"If only safety is solely a geophysical concern. This could be easy," she said. She added that the issue involves not only scientific data but also social, economic, and political policies.

She said the concern involves a wider area for consideration among local government units noting the need to integrate geo-physical data of the environment to long term local land use planning.