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Aquino govt. must be held accountable in CDO-Iligan disaster—group

MANILA, Dec. 27, 2011—Environmental advocacy group, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE) asserted that the Aquino administration should be held accountable for what happened in two of Mindanao’s key cities, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, for allegedly “coddling” loggers and lack of disaster preparedness that could have saved thousands of lives.

KPNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista Jr. in a statement said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is too callous in blaming the people who died in massive flooding in CDO and Iligan cities, as the Government had played a huge role in the disaster in allowing multinational and transnational companies to mine, log and convert upper lands for plantation, in the identified disaster-prone areas.

“NDRRMC has no ascendancy to exonerate the national government from its mandate to ensure the resiliency of communities such as in CDO and Iligan against disasters. A plethora of studies and analyses have long demanded the need for GPH to implement strategic community-based disaster risk reduction and climate adaption measures. But the Aquino administration’s disaster battle plan remained limited to monitoring and reactive response,” said Bautista, after NDRRMC director Benito Ramos has issued a statement saying that the people in the aforementioned have died due to their own “complacency”.

Bautista said that as early as 2009, there had been a study stating that CDO had become susceptible to massive floods because of land conversion. The study, which was conducted by the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences stated that the conversion of the 2,000 hectares of lands in the area of Upper Pulangi Watershed forest cover had made the city vulnerable to landslides and flashfloods.

The said 2,000 hectare lands were converted into pineapple plantation by Del Monte Philippines, a huge fruit canning company.

Clemente also cited the report by Mindanao-based environmental journalist BenCyrus Ellorin which states that the logging exemption in Mt. Kalatungan in Bukidnon had exposed the area in dangers of massive flooding and soil erosion.

“The NDRRMC has exempted the national government from blame saying it was able to provide ample warning. But isn’t the enforcement of the total log ban part of its mandate to mitigate disasters? Two thousand hectares of forest cover have already been converted into a pineapple plantation, so why has the Aquino administration further exempted various legal logging operations in the Mt. Kalatungan watershed area when its tributaries go straight to CDO and Iligan? This is a problem that Aquino definitely had not inherited from the previous regime,” Bautista said.

Meanwhile, Kalikasan Partylist had noted that the fact that residents and officials did not anticipate and was not able to respond to 180.9mm or a month’s worth of rainfall in Mindanao indicated that this policy recommendation remained unheeded.

“Iligan and CDO [were] caught unaware [which has] revealed the fact that the national government has no early warning system on the ground on one hand, and that communities lack climate change education and capacity building on the other. This calls for a serious overhaul of our climate change and other environmental laws that has not qualitatively done anything for the improvement of our communities’ climate resiliency,” said Meggie Nolasco, Kalikasan Partylist Spokesperson.

She also said that people in the Government should have learned the lessons of Ondoy, Pedring, Pepeng and Quiel and that the threat of climate change is for real.

“Ondoy and Pepeng, Pedring and Quiel, and now Sendong: extreme weather events are increasing in number and intensity, and have exposed real problems that government has left unaddressed. Relief operations are continuing and President Aquino belatedly authorized the use of Php1.17 billion in calamity funds for rescue and rehabilitation, but we cannot remain reactive if we are to rise above the climate crisis,” said Nolasco. [Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews]