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MANILA, Philippines-Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Ramon J. P. Paje is calling on local government units (LGUs) to step up their information campaign to raise public awareness of geological hazards, particularly landslide and flooding, to mitigate their impacts.

This developed as the environment chief directed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and its regional offices to come up with a comprehensive, all hazards training program to address the needs of LGUs down to the barangay level.

“It is high time our people learn to decide what’s best for them and their families during disasters as the government cannot be everywhere, every time,” Paje said in the wake of rain-induced landslides in Subic, Zambales that killed more than 20 people and destroyed several homes last Monday.

“There is now a need for LGUs to undertake continuing education of their constituents down to the sitio level to better prepare them and help them cope with the effects of typhoons which have become more intense due to climate change,” he added.

According to Paje, investing in environmental education would make communities in far-flung provinces and areas declared by the MGB as susceptible to landslides and flooding more resilient and readily capable of deciding what to do to protect themselves and their families during calamities.

“There is nothing we could do but to adapt to climate change and the only way we could be prepared for its impact is to accept that these recent developments in our country like intense weather disturbances, heavy rainfall, and long dry season are now the ‘new normal,’” Paje pointed out.

He said the loss of lives and damage to properties brought about by two landslide incidents in Sitios Masinit and Cabangan in Subic would have been prevented had the residents been informed about the dangers of living in those geohazard areas.

An MGB report said those areas are situated near foot slope of a ridge and volcanic plug and have already been declared as “landslide accumulation zones.”

Reports indicate that 359.7 milllimeter (mm) of rain an hour was dumped on the area on September 22 and followed by 143.6 mm on September 23. The average monthly rainfall for September over a 15-year spread is 695.8 mm.

Based on the MGB studies, Sitio Masinit is underlain by weathered volcanic rock with slope of around 50 degrees, while Sitio Cabangan is underlain by altered micrograbbos (grain-size dark rocks formed from magma rich in iron and magnesium) with soil thickness of around three meters and with slope of around 75 degrees.

 The DENR chief said the agency has already completed the geohazard assessment and mapping of the whole country at a scale of 1:50,000, and currently working on more detailed maps at a scale of 1:10,000, of which more than 400 municipalities have detailed maps already.

Furthermore, the MGB, which implements the geohazard assessment and mapping program, reported to have completed the assessment of 293 municipalities for coastal geohazard and climate change impact. (PR)