Gov. Catamco lacks knowledge on disaster management, says critic

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 28 Nov) – Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco is “totally clueless” about disaster risk reduction and management, a critic claimed.

Lawyer Christopher Cabilen, former legal counsel and now Secretary to the Sangguniang Panlungsod here, said he was appalled after he learned that Catamco has ordered the chairman of a village here to facilitate the return of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in their own homes even if these were identified as “no build zones.”

Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco talks with military and local government officials in the municipality of Makilala after the series of earthquakes that hit the province. Photo from the Bayan ng Makilala Facebook page

The lawyer said that Barangay Ilomavis chairman Jimmy Mantawil told Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista during a meeting held Wednesday at a convention center here that he received verbal instruction from the governor directing him to allow the return of some residents of Purok-Tres of Sitio Sayaban, which was declared as “red area” by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12.

An area is colored red in the geo-hazard map when it is landslide-prone.

“This [governor’s order] is in direct conflict with the mayor’s standing order of force evacuation in the area,” said Cabilen.

Cabilen said the governor apparently did not understand Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA).

“Nothing in the language of the law that requires free prior and informed consent (FPIC) in case of force evacuation in times of ‘actual’ calamity. The reason is obvious,” he explained.

Cabilen cited section 7 (d) of RA 8371, which allows displacement caused by natural catastrophes when their ancestral domain ceases to exist and normalcy and safety of the previous settlements are no longer possible.

For Catamco, the move to relocate the displaced quake victims, mostly IPs, should only be temporary.

“Temporary relocation shall generally occur as a result of ‘force majeure’, natural calamities or catastrophes,” Catamco said in her official Facebook page. She cited as basis Section 4, paragraph a; Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of IPRA.

The governor said the displaced IPs must be relocated within their ancestral domain and not outside. “This is the first option,” she added.

Catamco said that should the conditions for the return of the IPs pose grave threats and long-term risks or when normalcy and safety of the previous settlements are irreversibly lost, the displaced Lumads must be accorded relocation upon their “free prior and informed consent.”

She admitted having ordered village chairmen to allow return of the IPs to their lands.

The governor issued such order a week after she visited areas declared as “no build zones” in Kidapawan City and Makilala, Cotabato.

“With what I saw, I can say that the IPs’ houses were damaged by quakes because the structures were not earthquake-resistant. But those small houses made from coconut or palm and bamboo sheets, they survived,” said Catamco. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)