Always be cautious when passing through mountain barangays in Cebu City.
This was the advice of city officials following recent episodes of landslides in the hinterlands, the latest of which occurred at dawn yesterday in Sitio Garaje of Barangay Busay.
“Motorists should always be alert, especially during rainy days to avoid getting into these kinds of accidents. Just be cautious when passing by these areas,” said Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO) head Nagiel Bañacia.
He said the landslide in Barangay Busay was reported at around 2:20 a.m. yesterday.
At least nine public utility jeepneys (PUJs), two motorcycles and one car were either buried or partially buried — reducing them into crumpled pieces of scrap metal — during the landslide which, residents say, was the first major incident in the area.
Heavy equipment from Cebu City Hall and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) were busy clearing the area when Cebu Daily News visited the site yesterday morning.
According to General Services Office (GSO) head Ronaldo Malacora, who oversaw the clearing operations, they had to be careful in doing the clearing as the soil from the hillside was still very loose.
“We only cleared the road leading to Sitio Roosevelt. It is not passable. We did not do anything in the middle area since the soil would still move,” he told CDN.
Two backhoes, two dump trucks and a payloader were deployed by GSO to clear the area. Another two dump trucks were also sent by DPWH to help transport the collected debris and soil form the area.
The landslide covered the cemented uphill road leading to popular sites like Mountainview Resort, Lantaw Restaurant and Temple of Leah.
A house, reportedly owned by the Castillo family, who owns the Mountainview Resort, was still standing on the edge of the hillside yesterday.
Bañacia said they noted cracks near the base of the house.
He added that if rains continue to pour, there is a chance that the house or part of it may fall down.
“We still have to meet with the engineers on what to do. It is also a private property, so we still have to discuss. But the way I see it, the house has to be demolished so as not to cause harm there,” he said.
The CCDRRMO is also busy monitoring another landslide area in Barangay Sirao which left cemented roads cracked and impassable in the area.
Bañacia said they have put up warning signs in these areas to warn motorists and other passersby that these are landslide-prone sections of the road, as per information from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Visayas (MGB-7).
Aside from Busay and Sirao, landslides have also been reported in the mountain barangays of Agsungot, Budlaan, Binaliw, Bonbon, Kalunasan, Pamutan, Pit-os, Mabini, Toong and Sapangdaku.
Last Tuesday, the Cebu City Council declared all of the city’s mountain barangays under a state of calamity to facilitate the use of disaster funds for clearing and rehabilitation efforts in areas already affected by landslides and flash flood.
Bañacia said engineers from the MGB-7 are expected to visit and assess the landslide area in Busay today in order to give recommendations as to what to do there.
A portion of the stone and concrete retaining wall below the hillside also fell down during the landslide.
Huge slabs of concrete ended up on the parked PUJs, which ply the routes of Busay and Plaza Housing.
Residents said men who cleaned the PUJs would usually spend the night on the parked vehicles; but on Tuesday night, it was fortunate that no one slept in any of the jeepneys.
Janette Famador, 41, was among the witnesses of the landslide.
She said she was still awake and was in her sari-sari store just across the affected area when it happened.
“I saw someone bringing bundles of flowers waiting for a vehicle before the landslide happened. Thankfully, the person was able to get a ride maybe five minutes before the landslide occurred,” she told CDN in Cebuano.
She also said that an 11-year-old boy was sleeping in one of the parked jeepneys but was able to transfer to a different jeepney, farther from the affected area, just before the incident happened.
“Mora siya og linog. Mora og nagdugdog. Grabe kakusog ang paghugno sa yuta. Naa sad morag spark sa kuryente kay naigo man ang mga wires,” Famador recalled.
(It was like an earthquake. It was like thunder. It was so loud when the soil started eroding. There were also sparks coming from electricity wires which were hit during the landslide.)
The road leading to Mountainview, Lantaw and Temple of Leah were completely blocked by the soil and debris after the incident.
Fortunately, there are two alternative roads from these establishments to the city proper, passing through Barangays Malubog and Babag, but these are longer and rougher roads.
It was only around 3 p.m. yesterday when the GSO was able to clear the road.
Malacora said they were able to pull out at least three jeepneys that were covered by debris as of yesterday.
As for the others, they did not touch them yet pending advisory from experts as to what will be done in the area to prevent it from worsening.
Meanwhile, Councilor Jose Daluz III has asked the CDRRMO to provide the council an itemized detail on how it will make use of the city’s disaster fund this year.
Daluz III, who heads the council’s committee on social services, said he expected the CDRRMO to submit the breakdown of how it would spend the P346 million in disaster response fund allotted for 2017.
Daluz particularly wanted to know how the CDRRMO will spend the P146 million allocated for the infrastructure and relocation sites for landslide-prone areas in the mountain barangays and the funding for the city’s emergency medical services (EMS).
Daluz said that preventing landslide incidents from happening in the mountain barangays should be the priority.
He said the council would also need to find out if there will be infrastructure projects lined up this year to help victims in landslide-prone areas since they could not continue using schools as evacuation areas and keep on disrupting classes.
He said it was precisely for this reason that the P30 million proposed budget as disaster response fund was raised to P146 million.
Daluz also expressed concern that barangay officials were not informed of the new policies that changed how the EMS fund will be spent under the administration of Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
He noted that the funding for EMS, which used to be distributed directly to barangays, will now be used to professionalize EMS personnel.
CDRRMO likewise planned to focus on the city-based ambulances and rationalize the deployment of ambulances throughout the city.
“There are a lot of changes in the policy. I understand that because this is a new administration. What I ask from the disaster council is that the barangays should be informed of the new policies,” he said.
Bañacia, in an interview, said he has apologized to the village chiefs whose services will be affected by the changes, explaining that since the funding for EMS has been slashed from P59 million to P25 million, they would need to redo their spending scheme.
He, however, assured the CDRRMO will still extend quality service to the public.
“We will not follow the practice of putting many ambulances only in this area and only a few on those other areas. The ambulances they already have will stay in their barangays. They will immediately respond within their locality,” he assured.
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