GenSan mulls creation of permanent disaster command center

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 July)– The city government is planning to establish a permanent command center that will lead various interventions during disasters and related crisis situations that might occur in the area.

Mayor Ronnel Rivera said the move is part of the institutional changes they are pursuing as part of an ongoing comprehensive review of the city’s disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) plans and programs.

“Our goal is to come up with specific plans for whatever disaster that will hit or affect the city,” he said.

Rivera said they earlier convened the city disaster risk reduction and management council (CDRRMC) to facilitate the review process.

The city government created last year the CDRRMC office in compliance with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

RA 10121 also mandated local government units to establish their own DRRM plans and allocate appropriate funds for such purpose.

Aside from the establishment of an activity command center, Rivera said the local government will activate a permanent disaster hotline for the city.

The mayor earlier said his administration will also focus on the relocation of residents from identified high-risk disaster areas, specifically those prone to severe flooding.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region 12 had identified barangays Baluan, Buayan, Bula, Calumpang, Siguel, Lagao and Sinawal as high-risk to flooding.

The seven villages were among the 340 communities in Region 12 that were found to be highly vulnerable and will likely become “inhabitable” during floods.

Other areas in the city that are considered as flood-prone are barangays City Heights, Apopong, Labangal, Dadiangas North and Dadiangas West.

In the last two years, hundreds of families settled in communities near the Silway River here were forced to evacuate several times due to the swelling of the river’s waters, especially during heavy downpour.

Silway River, which flows to Sarangani Bay, is the main outlet of several river-tributaries from the upland areas in nearby South Cotabato province.

Portions of Barangays Bula, Lagao and Baluan also experienced severe floods last year after hours of heavy rains.

Lawyer Arnel Zapatos, city administrator, said the city government will create short- and long-term plans to address the vulnerability of some parts of the city to flooding and other geohazards.

“One aspect of the plan will focus on the problems with our drainage system and the perennial flooding in some barangays,” he said.

The city government started drafting last year a drainage master plan that was estimated to cost around P800 million.

The drainage project mainly involves the construction of major drainage channels and additional flood-control systems in major rivers traversing the city’s 26 barangays. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)