The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is urging local government units (LGUs) to be more prompt in declaring the cancellation of classes and work in their respective areas during inclement weather conditions.
DILG OIC-Secretary Eduardo M. Año says local chief executives, as chairpersons of their respective local disaster risk reduction and management councils (LDRRMC), should be able to make wise and quick decisions based on the situation on the ground on whether to suspend classes or not.
“Local chief executives should always be on top of the situation, especially during typhoons and calamities. They should be actively monitoring the weather condition and the actual situation in their localities. Hindi puwedeng tutulog-tulog,” says Año.
The DILG Chief issued the call after its different field offices received numerous feedback and complaints from private individuals on the late suspension of classes by some local government units when Tropical Depression “Henry” poured heavy rain over Luzon in mid-July.
“By the time the announcements were made, the students were already in school and had to tread through gutter and knee levels of unsanitary flood water to go back home,” says Año.
On Wednesday, the Department of Education (DepEd) refuted suggestions to return the authority over class suspension announcements to DepEd.
According to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, LGUs should have such authority given that local government officials know their areas best and will be quicker in responding to the localities’ needs during disaster.
In 2012, Malacañang issued Executive Order No. 66 series of 2012, which gives local chief executives, as LDRRMC chairs, the power to cancel or suspend classes and work in government.
Año says the Department is mulling disciplinary actions against lazy officials who do not suspend classes on time.
“Erring officials who are too lazy to wake up to suspend classes even though PAGASA has declared its warning signals may be charged with gross neglect of duty,” he says.
Delayed class suspensions endangers the students who are already on the road or outside their homes in times of disasters, according to Año.
“We are putting minors at risk when we delay class suspensions. We must not wait for the flood levels to become critical before making the announcements,” he adds.
Last weeks’ heavy rainfall flooded parts of Luzon, causing some areas to declare a state of calamity in their areas.
In July alone, four tropical cyclones have visited the country - Typhoon Gardo (Maria), Tropical Storm Henry (Son-Tinh), Severe Tropical Storm Inday (Ampil), and Tropical Depression Josie.
“Given the country’s vulnerability to storms, it’s better for us to ensure the safety of our constituents in advance than to be sorry when it’s too late,” says Año.
In order to have a more accurate picture about the weather, he says local officials could also consider the color-coded rainfall advisories given by the state bureau aside from the signal warnings.
He points out that the DILG has not been amiss in building the capacities of local government units as well as guiding local officials on what to do before, during and after typhoons.
“We have already published Operation Listo manuals for governors and mayors that contain a checklist on the early preparedness actions that are expected from them during such calamities,” he says.