Boljoon needs help

By: Morexette Erram November 04,2017 - 11:27 PM

An area in Barangay Lower Becerril of Boljoon town that is damaged by the landslide that has hit a wide section of the village on October 29, 2017.

“Help us.”
This was the plea yesterday of Boljoon Mayor Merlou Derama as the municipality faces the daunting task of reaching clusters of mountain villagers who have been cut off from the town proper by the series of landslides that first struck the village of Lower Becerril on October 29.

Derama, speaking to Cebu Daily News by phone yesterday, said that the number of displaced families have risen but help could not get through as the only road that connects the four affected mountain barangays of Boljoon to the town proper, Barangay Poblacion, remains not passable even to motorcycles.

According to the mayor, the situation there has become more critical and they need all the help they can get from different sectors not just in terms of relief assistance but also equipment needed to open up the blocked roads.

Boljoon is a fifth-class municipality (average annual income — P15 million to P24 million) located 105 kilometers southeast of Cebu City. It has a population of about 16,000.

The town has only 11 barangays, six of which were earlier placed under a state of calamity by the municipal government as they became inaccessible due to the landslides that have created two artificial dams at a river along Upper Becerril and caused large land fissures that isolated the area and other adjoining villages.

The landslides were initially attributed to the movement of the fault line in the area, but these were later found to have been caused by the softening of the soil resulting from incessant rain experienced in Cebu since last week.

Derama told CDN they are now facing a difficult task of transporting relief goods and other supplies to four mountain barangays of Boljoon.

Since Thursday, he said, access to Barangays Upper Becerril, Lunop, Nangka and San Antonio was cut off when 15-km Becerril–Nug-as Road sustained several cracks brought about by the constant movement of land beneath it.

Together with Barangays Poblacion and Lower Becerril, these mountain villages were placed under a state of calamity by the municipal council of Boljoon on Friday during an emergency session.

“Transporting supplies and relief goods bound for the mountain barangays of Nangka, Lunop, San Antonio and Upper Becerril has become very difficult task because the road there was damaged, and cannot be traveled by all types of vehicles. Walking is the only option,” said Derama.

Calamity areas

The municipality decided to place these villages in a state of calamity after geologists from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Visayas (MGB-7) found that the series of landslides caused by nonstop rains have placed many sitios (subvillages) at risk.

MGB-7 Director Loreto Alburo, in a statement released Friday, identified Sitio Camp Franco (also called Calfranco) of Barangay Lower Becerril as the worst-hit area, and recommended to declare it as a Permanent Danger Zone and a No Habitation Zone.

By putting six out of its 11 barangays under a state of calamity, the municipal government of Boljoon can access its calamity funds to provide assistance to the affected families.

Derama said they have at least P1 million in calamity funds that they could use to assist the affected families and defray the cost of clearing up the landslide-hit areas.

Not enough

But he stressed that their funds were not enough, especially that they would also want to open an alternative road in order for relief goods and disaster teams to reach the inaccessible mountain villages.

Derama said they would need the help of the national government to fund the opening of an access road.

“I think (P1 million is not enough). This is why I am appealing anyone from the national government if they can provide assistance to open up a new road in our town because the damaged one, the one that leads to Barangay Nug-as in Alcoy, is severely damaged. And also, it needs extensive repair,” he explained.

Derama said they were still assessing the cost of the damage on the Becerril–Nug-as Road. The MGB-7 findings revealed there are numerous cracks on the surface of Barangay Lower Becerril’s mountainous terrain, including those along the Becerril–Nug-as Road.

State geologists added that rainwater has seeped through these cracks and made the ground below saturated and unstable, therefore causing erosion and landslides in the area. MGB-7 also found out that the cracks’ width range from 20 to 60 centimeters.

Derama also said they will start using the calamity funds once the team from the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas (DSWD-7) has finished profiling and collecting information from among the 19 displaced families (17 from Sitio Camp Franco, 2 from Sitio Sangi), numbering at least a hundred individuals.

“We will have to wait for the field officers of DSWD-7, who arrived in town last Friday, to give us the cost of providing assistance to the affected families. Once they do, then we can only release and start spending the calamity funds. As of yesterday (Saturday), the number of affected families who badly needed food, shelter, clothes and first-aid has reached to 19,” he explained.

But there were previously 17 more families (over 200 individuals) from Sitios Sangi and Sitio Upper Cansiloy of Barangay Lower Becerril who have fled their houses last Monday and have sought shelter in safer grounds.

Derama added they are expecting for DSWD-7 to submit a finalized report today (Sunday).

For Lyn Medida, whose brother and father were among the displaced families, they are also requesting for safe, drinkable water and food as they were still trying to start their lives over again after abandoning their house located at Sitio Sangi of Barangay Lower Bacerril.

“What we really need is the basic necessities, drinking water and food, because supplies are getting scarce. We’re asking concerned groups and individuals to help us by donating relief goods. It would be of great help,” she told CDN in a text message.

Medida added that for now, her brother and father are staying in Barangay Poblacion in their family-owned sari-sari store.

Donated relocation site

On the other hand, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) announced that an owner of a private lot located in Barangay Lower Becerril offered to donate his four-hectare property to the local government unit (LGU) of Boljoon to be used as a permanent relocation site for the displaced families.

PDRRMO chief Baltazar Tribunalo announced to Capitol reporters yesterday that although the relocation site is within Barangay Lower Becerril, which is currently under state of calamity, it was far from the landslide-hit area of the village. He added that the lot is about a kilometer away from Barangay Poblacion.

“We already deployed a team from our recovery and rehabilitation planning group to survey the land and see if it’s safe for occupancy. If results show that it can be occupied, the team will also assist the displaced families on constructing their houses in the site,” said Tribunalo.

Impounded water rising

The series of landslides also resulted in two artificial dams that blocked the flow of the 10-kilometer-long Lusopan River at Barangay Lower Becerril.
Although Barangay Poblacion is not affected by the landslides, it is also at risk after MGB-7 cautioned local government officials of Boljoon that a possible mudslide may hit the town proper since it is situated downstream of Lusopan River.

Data from the PDRRMO revealed that the volume of water impounded in the first dam, which was formed on October 29, measured at 430,000 cubic meters, which is powerful enough to wash away everything on its path.

Tribunalo said the water level of the river continued to rise as of yesterday.

“We already cordoned the area. (A separate) team from the recovery and rehabilitation planning group is assigned there to monitor the water level, which has already increased. We have already urged everyone residing 20 meters from the riverbanks to evacuate because anytime the water on the dam may overflow, and may even break the dam,” he stated.

However, heavy equipment from the Cebu provincial government deployed in the area is still being used to slowly remove the debris blocking the water as well as widening the riverbank to ease pressure.

Around 80 families, according to Eutemio Ternate, acting chief of the MDRRMO of Boljoon, are in danger since their houses are located on the riverbanks of Lusopan River.

“We have identified 80 families, (or more than 400 individuals), who are at risk of possible mudslide from the artificial dam in the river. We’re coordinating with the residents so that they can report any tell-tale signs of the dam about to break,” said Ternate.

On Wednesday, the incessant landslide also created a second dam located 500 meters south of the first dam. But both Ternate and Tribunalo said they are prioritizing to release the water impounded in the first dam due to its huge volume.


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