DENR sends team to investigate lahar flow in Guinobatan, Albay

Marje Pelayo   •   November 5, 2020   •   459

MANILA, Philippines — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered an investigation into the incident of lahar flow in Barangay San Francisco in Guinobatan, Albay which is being associated with quarry operations at the foot of Mount Mayon.

A team from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is on its way to the site to assess and delve into what caused the incident. 

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the DENR and other concerned agencies to investigate the matter as residents blame the quarrying activities in the area for the lahar flow.

According to Environment Undersecretary Jones Leones, around 100 quarry operators are now under investigation. 

Some of them acquired their permits from the local government unit (LGU) while others are said to not have a permit to operate at all, the official noted.

The agency targets to complete its investigation and come up with a report within the next 15 days.

“Kasi ang nangyari doon, because of the heavy rains parang naging shallow ang riverbeds doon. Nagkaroon ngayon ng overflowing. Nag-flooding doon. Saka ang mga buhangin masyadong malakas kasi maraming naka-stock doon sa periphery ng bulkan [What happened there was the riverbeds became shallow due to the heavy rains. The river overflowed; thus, the flooding. And a large stock of sand at the periphery of the volcano came raging down],” Leones explained.

“So noong umulan talagang nagbagsakan ang mga buhangin, mga quarrying materials [So when it rained, the sand and other quarrying materials cascaded rapidly],” he added.

Leones stressed that any operator who will be proven to be guilty of negligence or violations may face administrative charges.

Affected residents may also claim for damages that cause them, the official added.

“Kung may napinsalang indibidwal on the basis of our findings pwede nilang magamit iyon para mag claim sila ng danyos or magkaroon ng criminal case sila against doon sa sinomang nakagawa ng pinsala sa kanila [If any individual was hurt or affected, on the basis of our findings, they could file for claims for the damages or they may file a criminal case against those that cause them damage],” Usec. Leones said.

According to Albay Governor Al Bichara, they will cooperate with the order of the President, but appealed that the investigation should be finished first before suspending the operations as the materials from the quarrying operations will be needed for the rehabilitation of damaged houses and establishments in the province.

“If they will stop quarrying, we will run out of aggregates for reconstruction, rehabilitation of our province, not only that of the region because most of the aggregates come from Albay,” the governor said in a statement.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) earlier noted that lahar or mudflow usually searches an alternative path on the slope of the volcano if the old one turns shallow.

This could also happen to other volcanoes like in Mt. Pinatubo, the agency warns. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

DENR discovers four culverts draining untreated water directly into Manila Bay

Marje Pelayo   •   January 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A culvert or drainage pipe was discovered hidden behind boulders at station 640 along Manila Bay’s baywalk area on Roxas Boulevard was found to be discharging untreated wastewater directly into the bay.

Based on water analysis, fecal coliform count in the area was significantly high at 50 million most probable number per 100 milliliters.

After further inspection, three more alleged culverts along the baywalk were discovered. 

Pipes were found beside the Remedios drainage outfall across Aristocrat restaurant, Station 240 beside the Padre Faura outfall, and near the Estero San Antonio de Abad outfall.

“Ang lakas ng tubig. Bumubulwak (Water pressure was really strong),” said Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered the immediate plugging of the illegal outfalls, the establishment of engineering interventions, and the strict enforcement of environmental laws in the bay.

“Noong tine-trace na namin yung existing pipes ng DPWH, ng MMDA at saka ng local government units, itong na-discover namin na illegal pipe wala doon sa records nila,” Leones noted.

(When we were tracing the origin of the existing pipes of the DPWH, the MMDA, and the local government units, none of these illegal pipes were in their records.)

“So the Secretary (Cimatu) has decided na i-seal na namin yung mga illegal pipes and mga culverts. And then let’s see kung saan lalabas yung mga tubig na yan na suppose to be doon lumalabas sa illegal pipes na na-identify na namin,” he added.

(So the Secretary has decided to seal those illegal pipes and culverts and then let’s see where the water would go out aside from the illegal pipes that we have identified.)

Leones said that before they traced the illegal pipes, the coliform level in Manila Bay has already improved from billions of micrograms per normal cubic meters to only thousands.

It just needs to be improved to 100mpn for it to be safe for swimming. -MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Wildlife conservation must continue amid pandemic —DENR

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reiterated the need to continue wildlife conservation even amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

This was after a nesting sea turtle was sighted in Zambales province. DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu also reported several sightings of nesting sea turtles were in other areas.

“Even if we are faced with a difficult situation brought about by the threats of the disease, we must continue to strive to protect and preserve our endangered pawikan,” he said.

He added that the sightings prove that the efforts of conserving wildlife was not in vain.

The DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Olongapo City also received a report that sea turtles laying eggs were spotted at a beach resort in San Antonio town.

The DENR said they will monitor the situation of these nests to protect them from poachers and illegal wildlife traders.  AAC

DENR orders bamboo planting along Cagayan River to prevent floods

Robie de Guzman   •   December 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered the planting of bamboo trees along the banks of Cagayan to help prevent a repeat of the floods that submerged parts of Cagayan and Isabela provinces during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

The DENR said Cimatu issued that directive following a meeting with the Build Back Better Task Force created by President Rodrigo Duterte to oversee the rehabilitation of areas devastated by recent typhoons.

Cimatu co-chairs the task force with Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.

Cimatu told the DENR regional offices in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and CALABARZON to ensure the availability of bamboo planting materials and to identify areas along the river channels that are most suitable for bamboo propagation under the government’s Enhanced National Greening Program.

The DENR chief said they picked bamboo as it is ideal for stabilizing riverbanks given its high survival rate.

“The survival rate of bamboo is much higher and it has a faster growth rate compared to other trees,” he said, adding that bamboos also have the potential to be “a sustainable source of livelihood for the people of Cagayan Valley while protecting the integrity of Cagayan River.”

In the same meeting, Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona said the DENR’s move to plant bamboo trees offers an opportunity to look into the economic importance of bamboo.

Lantayona said the DTI has been producing engineered bamboo, but its facilities cannot operate at full capacity because there is currently a lack of bamboo supply.

“Cimatu’s push to mainstream engineered bamboo as a major alternative to timber will finally enable the full implementation of Executive Order (EO) 879,” she said.

Under EO 879, at least 25 percent of the annual requirement of school desks and chairs of all public elementary and secondary schools nationwide should be made of bamboo.

It also directs the DENR – through its Forest Management Bureau, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Laguna Lake Development Authority – to use bamboo as the planting material for at least 20 percent of its annual reforestation and rehabilitation areas.

“This should be done especially in provinces and towns which are engaged in or have the potential to engage in bamboo-based industries or where trees are difficult to grow because of poor site quality, susceptibility to erosion or adverse and steep gradients,” the DENR said.

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