Benguet town oks “forced evacuation plan”

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The municipal council of Kapangan, Benguet passed an ordinance on the implementation of forced evacuation as a “last resort” during disasters while penalizing violators.

Kapangan Mayor Manny Fermin said the ordinance is part of the town’s preemptive measure for disaster response. He said that his town, being situated in mountainous region, is prone to landslides. He identified barangays Cuba and Balakbak as among the most vulnerable to disasters due to steep mountain slopes.

Fermin said that last year, a couple was buried alive during a lanslide in an evacuation center at Barangay Gadang. “We want to prevent incidents like this so it is better to evacuate the entire village to areas proven to be safer,” he said.

Fermin said all the 15 barangays of his town already identified their evacuation sites, which are mostly schools and churches. “The barangay officials are well trained and they know their community, and they know which areas are stable and which are landslide prone,” he added.

The mayor also said that for the town, an evacuation center is under construction adjacent to the municipal hall. He said they hope to finish the evacuation center by September which can accommodate around 100 evacuees and is complete with toilets, kitchen, and rooms.

Section 6 of the said ordinance provides that the mayor or barangay captain shall have the power to declare forced evacuation in accordance to the decision of the municipal risk reduction and disaster management council (MRRDMC) or barangay risk reduction and disaster management council (BRRDMC). Barangay captains are also required to inform the MRRDMC immediately after declaring a forced evacuation.

The same section stipulates that the barangay or municipal government shall identify evacuation areas and designate areas where evacuees can be fetched by rescue vehicles. It also states that the local government shall provide vehicles to bring the evacuees to the evacuation sites. The ordinance also provides that evacuees shall stay at the designated evacuation sites until the mayor or barangay captain declares that it is safe for them to go back to their houses.

“However, immediately after the declaration of forced evacuation but before the actual implementation/enforcement thereof, the municipality or the barangay governments shall see to it that the local residents are informed in dialect known to them of the need to evacuate and that there is no other alternative way for their safety,” the ordinance read.

The ordinance gives police officers and army soldiers the authority to “use physical force that is commensurate under the circumstances without discrimination and with conscious attention to the needs of vulnerable sectors such as children, women, elderly and persons with disabilities” when there is a refusal to evacuate.

Violators will be fined from P500 to P2,000 or jailed from a month up to six months depending on the court’s decision. “If the violator is a public official, the foregoing penalty shall be without prejudice to administrative sanctions as may be supposed under existing laws, rules and regulations,” the ordinance stated. # nordis.net

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