It is your fault, Ifugao folks!
By Anthony A. Araos
The death toll in the landslide incident during the height of Typhoon Ulysses at Barangay Viewpoint in Banaue is nine.
Landslides in Ifugao are caused by widespread cutting of trees and Kaingin- or slash and burn farming. These are illegal but most folks here say, these are okay with them. Now, they’re paying dearly for their misdeeds. Because of this mindset, expect more deaths and destruction or loss of properties. Every time you would want to shout cuss words when hearing of landslide casualties, but you hold yourself and instead shout: ‘It is your fault, Ifugao folks!’
Ifugao needs a massive tree-planting program that could help prevent the drastic effects of environmental degradation and climate change.
For the nth time, top provincial government officials should underscore the need for full compliance with environmental laws in the municipal level. In the scale of one to ten, with ten as the highest, I’m giving a score of only three for Ifugao’s 11 towns.
Out there at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), the focus should be on environmental protection. It is good that Vice Governor Prudenciano is around. But reform is not going to happen. Not if the board members are looking the other way from the need to push aggressively for better environmental laws. Perhaps, Ifugao needs more legislators at the SP who understand the issues affecting the environment and who have the capacity to push a coherent, consistent and comprehensive pro-environment agenda. Well, it is fairly do-able in 2022. Lack of strong and genuine support for the environment agenda spells trouble not only to present but future generations in Ifugao. It can only cause anxiety and inevitable disaster that the province cannot afford.
Now is the right time for Vice Governor Prudenciano to re-awaken Ifugao folks on the vitality of his advocacy for the “Muyong” (or reforestation) program. He should immediately call for another meeting of the small group of “Muyong” proponents.
Vice Governor Prudenciano should take steps to firm up the partnership with the civilian sector. That is, public-private partnership on the environment front through the “Muyong” program.
The number of casualties in the tragic landslides in Ifugao should have declined dramatically over the years if the practice of replacing highly-trained PDRRMO personnel each time a new administration comes in is halted. It is ridiculous for the provincial government to be spending so much for their specialized training courses in Metro Manila only to be booted out for obvious reasons. Training programs are essential to help PDRRMO personnel become prepared and more responsive to the effects of disasters and calamities. “They are job-ordered personnel,” an official said. I beg your pardon? Such personnel are hired not based on their skills and talents but on the basis of political connections. Think long-term! If we are to promote efficiency in government operations, we have to end political patronage as the main consideration in hiring people. .
The need for an enhanced public-private collaboration in disaster risk reduction and management once more arises in the wake of the tragic landslide in Banaue. This is given more meaning if the provincial government gives the civilian sector every chance to take part in relevant undertakings of the Dalipog administration.
The private sectors in other provinces are already enabling disaster preparedness in very meaningful ways. It should also be done in Ifugao.
It is high time for the Dalipog administration to recognize private sector entities, programs and individuals that create lasting changes through innovative and impactful disaster resilience initiatives. In short, a “whole of society” approach is the need of the hour. Success in that might make us able, in the near future, to shout, “We did it!”**