Itogon residents reminded of rainy season safety protocols

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LANDSLIDE PRONE AREA. This major landslide at Ucab, Itogon, Benguet on September 16, 2018 killed scores of people with others still missing until now, The incident reminds residents of the need to be prepared and evacuate to safer grounds. (PNA file photo)

ITOGON, Benguet — The municipal government here on Monday said it is now better prepared with the onset of the rainy season, reminding residents of the safety protocols to prevent a repeat of another deadly landslide like last year where several persons perished.

“We have an incident command system but now, we have corrected our shortcomings and we have included all officials up to the barangay level to have each and everyone’s participation, each one having his function during calamities,” Mayor Victorio Palangdan told Philippine News Agency (PNA).

“I issued an Executive Order for all of them [barangay officials, emergency responders, and policemen] to be in their respective jurisdiction and be ready for any eventuality and I instructed that they implement the force evacuation if there are any other residents who refuse to voluntarily evacuate themselves,” the mayor said, assuring the safety of the town’s 58,000 residents.

On Sept. 16, 2018, scores of people in the town were buried alive when they took refuge in a bunkhouse after a massive landslide happened at the height of Typhoon Ompong (international name “Mangkhut”).

Palangdan said they would meet all village residents from June 24 to 28 to brief them about the policies, rules, safety precautions and regulations that will be implemented in Itogon.

“We want everyone in Itogon to be prepared this coming rainy season,” the mayor said.

Mandatory safety policies

In a meeting with school officials, Palangdan advised those located in geohazard zones that classes are immediately suspended when there is heavy rainfall.

He also said when classes are suspended on midday, daycare pupils need to be fetched by their parents or guardians and should not be allowed to leave the school on their own. The other students, on the other hand, can go home on their own.

For residents in areas declared as danger zones, they must comply with the mandatory evacuation and must relocate to the established evacuation areas.

Palangdan said all barangays have established their evacuation areas.

“All communities — Ampucao, Ucab… all nine barangays have. There are schools, barangay halls, gymnasiums which have been identified and can be used as an evacuation center,” he said.

The mayor said the local government has prepositioned food packs enough for the specific capacity of each evacuation center.

They are also asking the Department of Social Welfare and Development for additional food packs to be pre-positioned at the evacuation areas, in case there will be more evacuees than the capacity, he said.

“We will deliver them immediately in the evacuation areas before there are road closures due to rain. It is difficult to bring supplies when the roads are blocked by landslides,” Palangdan said in the Ilocano vernacular.

“To my town mates in Itogon, please do not be hard-headed and follow what the government tells you so that you will be safe,” Palangdan said.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s (MGB) has identified Itogon’s nine barangays — Ampucao, Dalupirip, Gumatdang, Loacan, Poblacion, Tinongdan, Tuding, Ucab, and Virac — as highly susceptible to landslides./Dionisio Dennis, Jr. (PNA)