DILG bars local officials from traveling during disasters

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 24) — Local government officials are now barred from traveling abroad or out of town during typhoons and other disasters, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Thursday.

"All foreign travel authorities and leaves of absence of local government officials of affected localities are recalled during such emergencies or calamities," the DILG said in a statement, citing a memorandum issued by Secretary Eduardo Año on January 4.

The directive is to ensure local officials will not be "missing in action" during times of calamity, the DILG said.

Officials and employees covered by the ban include mayors and vice mayors, councilors, and department heads with important roles in disaster response such as the local disaster risk reduction management officer. The DILG, which supervises local government units, has the power to approve foreign travel and leaves of absences of local officials and employees.

The DILG on Monday filed cases at the Office of the Ombudsman against five Northern Luzon mayors for their absence during the onslaught of the deadly Typhoon Ompong in September 2018. They are Mayor Felix Eduarte of Tayum, Abra; Mayor Materno Luspian of Mankayan, Benguet; Mayor Mateo Chiyawan of Natonin, Mt. Province; Mayor Jose Limmayog of Sadanga, Mt. Province; and Mayor Brenda Belarmino-Ruma of Rizal, Cagayan. A number of mayors also received warnings from the DILG.

READ: DILG asks 16 mayors to explain absence during deadly Typhoon Ompong  

Ompong left at least 82 people dead, and 138 injured, most of them in the Cordillera region, according to the latest report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

"As what is prescribed on DILG's Operation Listo Manual, [local chief executives] must be present before, during and after any disaster. Sundin at unawain po natin ang Manual at hindi po tayo maliligaw," DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.