By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan and Nef Luczon

DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos (PNA file photo by Joey O. Razon)

MANILA –  The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged local government units to heighten their disaster preparedness efforts ahead of the onslaught of tropical cyclone Egay.

Secretary Benhur Abalos reminded local chief executives (LCEs) to stay in their posts before, during, and after a typhoon hits to implement the “Operation L!STO Protocols” within their areas of jurisdiction.

“It has been proven that the Operation L!STO Protocols save lives. We continue to remind our LCEs to stay in their posts in time of typhoons at pangunahan ang pagpapatupad nito sa kanilang mga nasasakupan (lead its implementation in their area of jurisdiction). It needs LCEs to ensure that its guidelines will be implemented well lalo ngayon may parating na bagyo (especially now that there is an incoming typhoon),” Abalos said in a statement on Sunday.

He said that the LCEs’ presence is critical in the swift implementation of the L!STO protocols, especially down at the grassroots level.

All steps in the protocols will be set in motion by the LCEs, to be assisted by the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer (LDRRMO), added Abalos.

Part of the LCEs’ responsibilities within the Operation L!STO Protocols are to convene the LDRRM Councils within 24 hours upon receiving a severe weather bulletin; reviewing LDRRM/Contingency Plans and Hazard Risk Maps; and organizing Search, Rescue and Retrieval, Security, and Clearing Operations Teams, among others.

According to Abalos, the L!STO protocols also prescribe that the LCEs lead in the conduct of the Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment and the preparation of appropriate response plans; assessment of the functionality of evacuation centers; and, activation of the Incident Command System.

He likewise underscored the preparation of evacuation centers and the conduct of pre-emptive and forced evacuation especially in flood and landslide-prone areas.

He said LCEs are expected to lead in carrying out grassroots actions, such as issuance of prohibitions for sea voyages and fishing and preventing people to cross any body of water; and dissemination of public warnings thru established warning systems and weather bulletins.

“Operation L!STO remains to be the blueprint for LGUs to prepare for disasters. Kaya inaasahan nating pangungunahan nila [LCEs] ang pagsunod sa mga preparedness measures nito (So we expect the LCEs to lead in following the preparedness measures),” said Abalos.

Meanwhile, the city government of Cagaran de Oro on Saturday reminded barangay officials to be on the frontlines in disaster response.

In a media interview, City Mayor Rolando Uy said while the local government’s City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Department (CDRRMD) already put in place response protocols to help affected villages in situations like flooding, each barangay’s local disaster unit should complement those measures as first responders.

“We have already a DILG memorandum on how local governments enact disaster preparedness and response and this includes the role of the barangays,” he said.

Uy’s pronouncement came on the heels of flooding in some eastern barangays of the city on Friday evening as a result of the rains brought by Egay.

The downpour caused the Alae River in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon to overflow and water went downward toward the creeks that are part of Barangay Agusan in this city.

As per CDRRMD report Sunday, there were 14 families affected in the village, comprising 35 families.

Uy also said he might conduct a probe together with the DILG on reports that some barangay officials have failed to activate their respective barangay disaster risk reduction units. 

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration 5 p.m. bulletin, Egay has reached severe tropical storm category.

Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal No. 1 has been hoisted in parts of Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Aurora, Isabela, and Cagayan provinces in Luzon; and in Eastern and Northern Samar in the Visayas. (PNA)