ComVal Gov: List of risk areas preposterous

Karlos Manlupig
Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy cries foul over an MGB list of high-risk areas in the province.

SURVIVORS IN NEED. The authorities are asking for help to deliver supplies to the survivors in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. Photo from Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division's official Facebook page

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley – Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy cried foul over the list that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) presented showing the high-risk areas in the province.

“Almost 80% of the province was red,” Uy said on Friday, December 7. “Ibig sabihin lahat high risk?” (It means the entire area was high risk?)

Uy’s comment came after the MGB released geological hazard maps showing that areas in the province were washed away by Typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha) because they were prone to flooding and landslides.

MGB Director Leo Jasareno said about 80% of the valley is disaster-prone because of factors like mountains and rivers, and illegal logging and mining.

Compostela Valley is one of the hardest hit provinces, with over 200 dead as of 5 am of December 7. Pablo killed more than 400 people in Mindanao, with the death toll still expected to rise.

Uy said the list is preposterous.

“What shall we do? Does this mean that everyone in this province should leave this land?”

“MGB should clarify this list,” Uy said.

The governor said that the MGB should help the local government by suggesting ways to prevent disaster in the area and not just by providing a list.

Jasareno has said that two days before Pablo hit Mindanao, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued advisories to disaster-prone local government units on the path of the typhoon.

The MGB Director said Barangays Andap and Poblacion in Compostela Valley were specifically included in the list.

Jasareno said that Misamis, Surigao and Cagayan de Oro followed the advisory and had fewer casualties.

“The number of casualties would have been reduced or even avoided if they listened to the advisory,” Jasareno said of Compostela Valley in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

‘Unexpected damage’

Uy said Thursday, December 6, that he did not foresee the extent of the damage Pablo brought to his province.

“Hindi naman risky ito, Poblacion ito eh,” Uy said in an interview with reporters on Thursday. (This is not risky, this is Poblacion.)

“Itong gumuho na sobrang laking volume nang tubig, ‘di natin inasahan …. Bumigay kasi ang evacuation center namin, two days prior nagevacuate na tayo eh [sa] barangay center, covered court, doon bumuhos ang tubig. ‘Di natin akalain iyon.”

(This volume of water that fell, we did not expect it. The evacuation center gave way, two days prior, we already evacuated residents to the barangay center, covered court, the water poured there. We did not expect that.)

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje though agreed with Jasareno that there was adequate warning. The MGB is under Paje’s department.

“But giving warnings is one thing and heeding them is really another,” Paje said in media interviews.

Paje said a factor behind people’s refusal to leave disaster-prone areas was the rich natural resources. Compostela Valley, for example, is rich in timber and gold.

“It’s not only an environmental issue, it’s also a poverty issue … The people would say, ‘We are better off here. At least we have food to eat or money to buy food, even if it is risky.’”

Paje said government wants to protect residents by giving them other means of livelihood in safe areas. – 

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