Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has issued a memorandum ordering all field officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to take proactive and timely measures to avoid risks associated with excessive rainfall.

The environment chief issued the directive after heavy rains from Tropical Depression Usman triggered flashfloods and landslides that killed at least 120 people in the Bicol region shortly before the New Year.

Earlier in 2018, two other deadly rainfall-induced landslides happened in Itogon town in Benguet and Naga City in Cebu province. A similar incident happened in Natonin, Mt. Province in October.

Cimatu said the increase in the frequency of landslide events triggered by heavy rainfall underscores the urgent need to further protect communities from the devastating effects of climate change.

“It is therefore imperative for the DENR and its field offices to be prepared and responsive to the dangers and adverse effects of excessive rainfall,” Cimatu said in the memo.

The memo was addressed to all DENR regional executive directors, regional directors of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), and provincial and community environment and natural resources officers (PENROs/CENROs) nationwide.

For them to become proactive, Cimatu said DENR field officials should revisit and familiarize themselves with the MGB-prepared geohazard maps indicating areas that are prone to floods and landslides.

“With the use and understanding of the geohazard map, the likelihood that we will be able to proactively respond to weather disturbances like typhoon and even mere low pressure incidences causing abnormally high rainfall will be greater,” Cimatu said.

The DENR Secretary directed all field offices to have a copy of the recently released and updated geohazard maps in their advisory bulletin board.

He also ordered field officials and employees to acquaint themselves with the location of landslide- and flood-prone sites in their respective areas of responsibility (AORs).

DENR field officials were likewise ordered to establish an open line of communication and strong coordination with concerned local government officials.

Local government offices, Cimatu said, should be properly briefed on the possible danger of landslide and flooding in their respective areas.

He said that DENR field officers should also validate on the ground and clearly reflect in their geohazard maps the areas or communities threatened by flooding and landslide, and to officially communicate these with the concerned local government.

At the same time, Cimatu ordered his field officials to familiarize themselves with the color-coded danger signs in the geohazard maps, as well as the rainfall warning signals released by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or DOST-PAGASA.

The DENR chief also instructed the field officials to be “physically present” in their AORs and to actively participate in meetings and disaster response efforts of the regional, provincial and municipal disaster risk coordinating councils during adverse weather.

He also ordered the immediate activation of an Operations Center in every regional office, PENRO and CENRO. The center will be tasked to receive instructions from the DENR central office in Quezon City and be responsible for providing updates and submission of reports.

It will be manned 24/7 by capable and dependable field officials complete with communications equipment, vehicles and other safety equipment necessary to effectively respond to the needs during abnormal weather events. ###