By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, JOSE SANTINO BUNACHITA September 22,2018 - 12:32 AM


SITIO SINDULAN DISASTER. An aerial view of the landslide that covered the houses in Sitio Sindulan, Barangay Tinaan, Naga City, on Thursday, which so far claimed the lives of 29 residents, with 60 others still missing. (Photo inset) President Rodrigo Duterte condoles with the families of landslide victims during a visit in an evacuation center in Naga City on Sept. 21, 2018.

In the wake of the recent tragedies in Cebu and Benguet that many blamed on quarrying and mining activities, President Rodrigo Duterte last night
announced that he would consider suspending mining activities in most parts of the country.

The President, speaking during a medical forum in Shangri-La Mactan on Friday night, said that even if the mining industry has contributed P70 billion in revenues to the government, it is not enough to compensate for the loss of lives and grief when disasters happen.

The President’s pronouncement came hours after Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, while in Naga City, suspended the Environmental Compliance Certificate of the quarry operations of Apo Land and Quarry Corp. and of other mining companies in Central Visayas (Region 7) and in Regions 1 (Ilocos Region), 3 (Central Luzon), 4A (Calabarzon), 5 (Bicol), 10 (Northern Mindanao), 11 (Davao Region), and 13 (Caraga).

The mining suspension in these regions would remain in effect while a review of their operations is being conducted, said Cimatu.

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III also suspended all quarry operations in Cebu.

“There’s a need to review all permits issued to quarry companies and also to determine the places which are at risk,” said Davide, who was in Naga City also visiting the landslide victims.

Naga City Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong, on the other hand, also issued an executive order stopping all mining operations and related activities, including small-scale quarries, sand and gravel extractions, and other similar activities in the city.

The tragedy in Naga City has apparently added to the President’s resolve to close mining sites in a number of areas in the country.

Following a visit to the evacuation centers in Naga City yesterday afternoon, the President spoke in front of close to 400 gastroenterologists from different countries at a forum at the Shangri-La Mactan.

“I have been saying right at the start, that one day, and I hope to realize it, I pray to God that I will still be there … I have been warning them that I will eventually close mining operations in the most part of the country,” he said in his speech.

“This P70 billion we earn from taxes is not enough to compensate for all the suffering and agony that we have to experience every time there is a calamity,” he added.

A few days ago, the President also visited Benguet province where dozens, mostly small-scale miners, were killed in landslides in the aftermath of typhoon Ompong.

In his speech yesterday, the President recalled having to go and visit the families of the victims and those in hospitals.

“Yesterday (Thursday), this (landslide in Naga City) happened. I had to fly here to also condole and to extend assistance,” he said.

The President admitted this objective could not be done without the support of Congress, which will have to repeal the Philippine Mining Act.Mr. Duterte has been opposing open-pit mining and had agreed to its temporary ban.

Although he was originally expected to arrive at Shangri-La by 4 p.m., the President reached the venue at 9:03 p.m., having have to travel by land from Naga City, which was about 22 km from Cebu City.

No-build zone

This development came hand in hand with the President’s decision to disallow the rebuilding of homes in the area hit by the massive landslide in Sitio Sindulan, Barangay Tinaan, Naga City.

The landslide has so far claimed 29 lives, with at least 60 persons still missing.

President Duterte said the affected families can relocate to a vacant portion of the Balili beach property located about a kilometer from their current abodes.

“Naghisgot si mayora (Naga City Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong) nga naay yuta nga gipanag-iya sa provincial government. Nalipay ko. Kay basta gobyerno ang tag-iya, imo na na (Mayor has told me that there’s a lot owned by the provincial government. I’m happy because if a lot is owned by the government, that means you can have it),” he said.

The President was speaking before the survivors of the landslide that buried at least 50 houses in Sitio Sindulan on Thursday morning.

He assured them of the government’s full support, promising to build new houses for the affected families as well as paying for the burial expenses of the fatalities and the hospitalization cost of the injured.

President Duterte instructed Secretary Eduardo del Rosario of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council to supervise the construction of the settlers’ new houses.

“Ingon ana lang ang akong mahatag. Mapuy-an na na. Antus lang sa. Basta may kapuy-an, may atop, may balay (That’s what I can give you. You can already live there. Just sacrifice a bit. As long as you have a home and a roof, that’s fine),” he said.

“Ako nasubo tungod sa nahitabo. Dili lalim ang pagka krisis nga inyong giatubang karon. Bug-at kaayo. Dili lang tungod sa daghang tao nga napinsala ug katong nangamatay. Baw-an ninyo, y*** ning bagyo,” he added.

(I’m sad with what happened. It’s not easy to be in your situation right now. It’s too heavy a burden. It’s not just because many people were affected or lost their lives. You should know that typhoons are evil.)

One of the affected residents who was given the chance to speak in between the President’s message said it was not the typhoon that should be blamed for the devastation.

“Di mi mutuo nga bagyo ang hinungdan. Daghan nang bagyo ang among naagian pero walay landslides. Ang hinungdan niining tanan mao ang quarry (We don’t believe claims that typhoons caused the landslides. We’ve experienced many typhoons and yet there were no landslides here. What caused all of these is the quarry activities here),” she stressed with a loud voice.

President Duterte, however, did not give a definite response to the woman’s remark.

As of 5 p.m. on Friday, 29 bodies had been recovered while at least 60 remained missing. Most of the fatalities lie in state at the Naga City badminton covered court.

Area covered by the landslide reached 80.12 hectares, burying more than 50 houses in Sitio Sindulan, Barangay Tinaan, an interior village about 2.1 km from the city proper.

The houses were sitting along a quarry site of Apo Quarry and Land Corp. (ALQC) in Sitio Tagaytay, also in Tinaan.

Temporary relocation

In the meantime, Chiong ordered the evacuations of residents in Sindulan and Tagaytay in Tinaan, as well as nearby villages — Pangdan, Mainit, Bungahan and Naalad as part of the precautionary measures.

The evacuees stayed in seven evacuations sites although the bulk of them — 1,493 families — were at the Enan Chiong Activity Center.

“We request the national government to augment the resources of the city as we continue to the search and rescue operations as well as the evacuation of the victims,” Chiong said.

“This is a tragic event but it is the best time to unite,” she said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas (DSWD-7) distributed family food packs which contained six kilos of rice, six canned goods, and packs of coffee as well as dining utensils and hygiene and sleeping kits.

Senior Supt. Samuel Tadeo, director of the Bureau of Fire and Protection in Central Visayas and ground commander of the rescue operations, said they would continue to recover bodies of the victims 24/7.

“We stopped at times due to rain but rest assured the search and rescue operations shall continue,” he said.

Who to blame

Affected families blamed the ongoing quarry operations in the mountains of Barangay Tinaan as the reason behind the landslide.

Cecille Baldado, whose younger brother remained missing, said they repeatedly appealed to ALQC to stop its quarry operations as cracks and fissures started to emerge in the mountains.

“The company could not just wash its hands off what happened. We didn’t fail to remind them. Now, many lives were lost,” she said in Cebuano.

Chito Mañago, spokesperson of Apo Land, denied conducting quarry operations in the mountains of Naga City.

“There were no actual quarrying in the place. What was done was an access road development,” he explained.

Mañago said the company nonetheless will conduct its own probe to find out what caused the landslide.

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TAGS: 8, Cebu‬, cebuy, Cimatu, halted, Mindanao, mining, places, regions, review

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