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Geohazard maps, safe eco-tourism sites top DENR IVA tasksBy Saul E. Pa-aPNA Calabarzon

CALAMBA CITY, Laguna Jan. 28 – Assessing from the deadly mix of disasters lashed out by Typhoon Sendong in Northern Mindanao last month, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) IVA Regional Executive Director Reynulfo Juan has instructed the regional agency’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for the Calabarzon region the geohazard maps identifying geographical areas and communities vulnerable to disasters.

“Mangyayari yan. Dito meron kaming mga advisories. Dahil nagbabago na ang klima sa buong mundo”, Juan warned as the DENR regional office monitored 25 per cent of the Calabarzon region is prone from moderate to high-risk landslides.

He enjoined media assistance on the agency’s geohazard awareness and disaster-prevention campaign to the public, especially to communities which are susceptible and at risk for natural hazards and mobilize them in disaster- preparedness including forced evacuation.

DENR IV-A launched recently its information drive on geohazard mapping and disaster-preparedness following President Aquino’s directive to all government units that “hindi puwedeng pasok sa isang tenga labas sa kabila,” even prioritizing forced evacuation in any eventuality and filing appropriate charges against local executives who defy such order.

Juan revealed the sentiments by local communities who expressed “nandito ang buhay namin, dito na rin kami mamatay,” even as the environmental agency educates residents in disaster-prone communities and recommends to local government executives to come up with plans.

DENR regional executives also disclosed that their geohazard “tight watch” covers the region’s 17 protected areas and natural landscapes including eco-tourism destinations. “We are focusing on Taal Volcano now,” Regional Director Juan said.

Apart from the Taal Volcano, the DENR also listed natural attractions such as Mt. San Cristobal, Mt. Banahaw, Mt. Makiling, Laguna Lake as well as the region’s famous hot and cold spring resorts, land and aquatic eco-tourism destinations and natural gardens to ensure compliance to environmental requirements from geological to engineering assessments.

Juan added that even subdivisions that have mushroomed in the region are now required to pass through the agency’s Environment Management Bureau (EMB) for environment impact assessment, geological hazard evaluations and strong water drainage systems. The new geological requisites are set to avert tragedy that struck the Cherry Hills subdivision in Antipolo, Rizal.

Ensuring safe and secured eco-tourism destinations, Victor Mercado, DENR regional chief for protected areas and wildlife, said that the DENR chairs the regional eco-tourism committee formed through a joint circular with the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Assisted by a technical working group, the regional multi-agency eco-tourism body provides technical assistance and a set of criteria in evaluating physical and geographical locations, socio-economic conditions, environment impact assessments and other factors for the projects.

The eco-tourism committee is composed of members who are reconstituted every three years to review the project proposal and recommend approval or shelving of the plans.

The eco-tourism projects are subject to the committee’s evaluations if these are environment-friendly, have low-impact on the environment for infrastructure encroachments and participation of the communities in ecological preservation and conservation.

The localized Protected Area and Management Board (PAMB), composed of local officials, private sector and environment groups, also oversees the project proposals in their respective areas subject to compliance with the country’s laws on protected areas, wildlife and natural resources.

DENR officials cited local projects under scrutiny through its assessment mechanisms like the cable car plan in Rodriguez, Rizal and the shelved “Hollywood-style signage” project in the Taal Volcano vicinity.

The regional environmental agency has also explained that special grants in titling for alienable or disposable lands are not allowed on forest lands like the forest reserves in Magsaysay and Siniloan, Quezon. “The 12.5 meters of land encroaching into the Laguna Lake watershed is also not covered by public land disposition,” DENR regional officials said.

DENR regional technical director for land management services Francisco Milla, further said that the Free Patent Law covers titling of lots in residential zones in partnership with local government units.

Milla said the process involves presentation of proof of ownership, a minimal application fee, joint affidavit by neighbors, survey plan and a land investigator to inspect the lot, in coordination with the local government assessor and land management council.

The DENR exercises jurisdiction for the administrative requirements while the Land Registration Authority (LRA) is in charge of the judicial process. (PNA)

rsv/Saul E. Pa-a/jsd

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