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11:08 PM November 9th, 2017

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Landslides continue in Boljoon town, affecting roads in the affected barangays as shown in this November 5, 2017 photo, and prompting the Cebu provincial government to consider forcibly evacuating families in two sitios in Barangay Lower Becerril.
CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO

Province calls for forced evacuation of 37 families from two sitios in danger of being buried in massive landslide

It is only a matter of time before the two sitios in Barangay Lower Becerril, Boljoon town in southeastern Cebu will be buried in a mound of earth that will span up to seven hectares.

The alarming scenario prompted the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to order an evacuation of 37 families or 150 persons from Sitios Camp Franco and Sangi.

They will be housed temporarily at the sports complex in Barangay Poblacion while the relocation sites are being developed.

The problem is, some residents refuse to leave their homes.

But the danger is real, said PDRRMO Chief Baltazar Tribunalo.

“It’s not only possible. It will eventually happen. That’s seven hectares of land mass at most, expected to crash down and bury any house beneath it,” said Tribunalo.

“This is why massive and forced evacuation is needed. The only missing part here is when exactly this huge chunk of earth will fall. We never know, and that what makes it even more alarming,” he added.

Geologists from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) went to the affected subvillages on Thursday.

They found out that the landslides had not stopped since it first started two weeks ago as the ground remained unstable. The problem was compounded by the incessant rains that made the soil softer.

Since the rain was expected to continue, the MGB-7 anticipated that five to seven hectares of land from the slopes of Barangay Lower Becerril, a mountain village, would cascade and crush into Sitios Camp Franco and Sangi.

The weather bureau’s forecast was heavy rain may prevail over Cebu province due to tropical depression Salome, which was spotted 65 km southwest of Pili, Camarines Sur, as of 6 p.m. on Thursday and was moving at a speed of 25 kilometers per hour (kph) at a west-northwest direction.

At least 18 families or 120 persons had already evacuated from their homes in Camp Franco and Sangi and in the adjacent Sitio Cansiloy due to the landslides. They opted to stay with their friends and relatives.

But there were still remaining 37 families who refused to leave despite the imminent danger.

“This is the hard part — to convince residents why they need to leave their houses and seek safer areas because some said they do not want to abandon their properties which they worked hard to get it,” he stated.

Eutemio Ternate, chief of Boljoon’s Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), admitted it was difficult to forcibly remove people from their homes.

“It’s really hard on our part to force them to vacate their houses. Even if we do, some will choose to stay in the danger zones. We are aiming zero casualties. So to compromise, we will only forcibly evacuate them if it starts raining really hard,” explained Ternate.

Three parcels of land had been donated to the municipal government as relocation sites for displaced families.

The Cebu Archdiocese donated a four-hectare lot while the Iglesia Ni Cristo gave a 25-hectare property — both in Barangay Lower Becerril.

The third is a three-hectare lot owned by former Boljoon mayor Deogenes “Wargong” Derama, uncle of incumbent Boljoon Mayor Merlou Derama near a public school in Barangay Poblacion.

All three had been declared safe by the MGB-7 since these were away from the landslide-hit areas, said Ternate.

The situation in Sitios Camp Franco and Sangi has become more critical, a week since the municipal government of Boljoon placed six of their 11 barangays under a state of calamity due to the unceasing landslides.

Tribunalo said the tip of the landslide was slowly getting nearer to the diversion road that connected Barangay Poblacion in the town proper to the five mountain villages: Lower Becerril, Upper Becerril, San Antonio, Nangka and Lunop.

The municipal government opened the diversion road on Tuesday afternoon because the Becerril–Nug-as Road, which is 15 km long, had been rendered unpassable due to the damage caused by the landslide.

Since the Becerril–Nug-as Road could not be used, supplies and relief goods would not be brought to the five mountain villages.

Last Sunday, motorcycles were allowed to traverse the road after the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7) removed the debris.

But the soft ground beneath it made the road dangerous to bigger and heavier vehicles.

“The diversion road is located only 20 meters away from the original road. I instructed the local disaster team to close both every night to avoid any untoward incident,” Tribunalo said.

“Creating another diversion road is just another risk. We suggested that let’s wait for MGB-7 to say that the ground has finally stabilized,” he added.

Geologists from MGB-7 also found out that the landslides had buried two more houses, bringing to three the total number of the residences destroyed. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

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