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Surface cracks noted, evacuation began before the landslide

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo September 20,2018 - 11:39 PM

Photo courtesy of Jonji Gonzales

JUST three weeks ago, the residents of Sitio Tagaytay in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City, have reported cracks in the surface of the mountain where their houses stand.

Tinaan Barangay Captain Teodoro Cantal Jr. said he asked the city government and Apo Land and Quarry Corporation (ALQC) to look into the fissures after fear grew among his constituents.

When the ground fissures were reported, Naga City Mayor Kristine Chiong issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against ALQC and asked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Visayas (MGB-7) to conduct an assessment for the area’s safety.

In a letter dated August 29, MGB-7 informed Chiong that the cracks and fissures observed in the area are due to a natural phenomenon and are not caused by the quarry operations conducted by the ALQC in Sitio Tagaytay.

“Furthermore, the present nature, the number, and the distribution of cracks/fissures in the subject site are not considered critical and do not impose imminent danger to the neighboring community,” the MGB-7 said.

Despite the assessment of the MGB-7, Chiong said she did not lift the CDO on the quarry activities unless the agency would issue a clearance to allow the operation to resume.

“When the MGB gave the clearance, I said ‘okay,’ the CDO will be lifted but under the conditions that there will be 24/7 monitoring in the area. You need to submit a report every 7 days and you need to have a relocation for the families in the community,” said Chiong.

For the past week, Cantal said ALQC personnel have been evacuating residents of Sitio Tagaytay every night especially that it has been raining incessantly.

Cantal added that some of the residents voluntarily vacated their houses after the cracks were observed.

“Dunay uban diha nga nagpabilin kay naay mga hayopan. Ang uban pod kay walay pondo para mobalhin og balay. Pero gi-evacuate na sila kada gabii,” said Cantal.

(There were those who opted to stay because they had to take care of their livestock. Others had no money to relocate. But they would evacuate at night.)

However, Cantal admitted that it was not foreseen that what used to be small cracks in Sitio Tagaytay would end up burying an entire community, including a part of Sitio Sindulan, and kill a number of its residents.

A big part of the mountain where Sitio Tagaytay stood eroded and buried 20 houses in Sitio Sindulan, including its occupants, on Thursday.

“Just about two days ago, I again asked the MGB. I sent a letter to request for a re-assessment because I was not contented by their saying that the place is safe while my constituents are getting worried,” added Chiong.

Although Chiong said that she would not want to blame anybody for the incident, she said that the “documents and facts concerning the danger of the area will speak for itself.”

Chiong added that they were already arranging for the relocation of the residents in Sitio Tagaytay and Sitio Sindulan when the incident happened.

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TAGS: before, cracks, evacuation, landslide, noted

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