MANILA, Philippines – Undersecretary Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), said on Tuesday that the national government should not be blamed for the devastation left by tropical storm “Sendong” in Cagayan de Oro.
Ramos said the local government of Cagayan de Oro should not have allowed the informal settlers to build their homes in flood-prone areas.
“Responsibilidad ito ng local government, hindi ng national. Nakita ni Presidente [Benigno Aquino III] kanina na flood-prone area talaga, may mga bahay pa na nakatayo sa gitna ng ilog, ‘yung Isla de Oro. Maski hindi ka nagaral ng geohazard-mapping, alam mo na that is a flood-prone area. But the government of Cagayan de Oro allowed them to be there. Na-wash out sila and they blame the national government, I think that is unfair,” Ramos told ANC’s On The Scene.
“They should stop blaming the national government,” he added.
Ramos said that the President, who visited Cagayan de Oro Tuesday morning, observed that illegal logging and mining operations in the worst-hit areas caused the flooding.
“Marami siyang na-obserbahan doon. Katulad ng mga rivers, silted na dahil sa illegal logging in the mountains, nakita rin niya na may illegal mining,” he said.
Ramos said that a number of victims from Cagayan de Oro were informal settlers living in Isla de Oro, a sandbar in the middle of the Cagayan River.
He said the homes of around 3,000 residents were washed out in the flashfloods.
“The city government should regulate. Dapat hindi sila bigyan ng permit para magtayo ng bahay. Nakakalungkot, this is not the time or to us to blame each other pero nakita mismo ni PNoy. It would be unfair for the national government to be blamed,” he said.
Ramos also refuted the statements of local officials who said that they were not informed beforehand of the incoming storm.
“Responsibility ng local government ito kung malunod ang mga tao nila. Hindi ang national government ang nagbigay ng permit na mag-build sa gitna ng river. Pati ‘yung sinabi ni [Cagayan de Oro] Mayor [Vicente] Emano na hindi sila na-warningan, that is not true, hindi nagkulang ‘yung gobyerno, hindi nagkulang ‘yung media,” he said.
Ramos said the local government will also be held responsible for the burial of victims of Sendong.
“The local government has designated a place already for a mass grave. When we say mass grave, there are individual holes and they are aligned to give a semblance of dignity,” he said.
The death toll from the massive flooding has reached 957, with hundreds more missing.
Ramos said that with the high volume of missing persons, authorities have already lost count.
“We are continuing the retrieval and relief operations,” Ramos said.