PALMA BACKS HALT IN MINING

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Benjie B. Talisic, Morexette B. Erram September 22,2018 - 10:53 PM

An Air Force helicopter hovers above a part of the landslide-hit area in Naga City on Saturday as rescuers aboard the chopper survey the destruction below.

Amid the devastation and loss of lives from the massive landslide that hit Naga City, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma joined calls to stop quarry and mining operations in many parts in the country.

The prelate considered the decision of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to suspend all quarry operations in Central Visayas and seven other regions in the country a “wise” move.

“It’s time to reassess. If there is a need to close these companies for good, then we should do it. We should be mindful to its effects to life and the community,” said Palma, who was in Naga City yesterday and blessed and prayed over the fatalities of the landslide.

As of Saturday afternoon, the death toll has risen to 35, even as at least 44 more persons remained missing and were believed to be still buried underneath tons of earth and debris that went crashing down from the slopes of Sitio Sindulan of Barangay Tinaan early on Thursday.

Palma said a thorough investigation should be done so that justice will be served to the victims.

“We were saying over and over again, we should not desecrate the blessings we have from above. People know that sooner or later, somehow, when we are reckless of the environment or we take it for granted, it will boomerang on us,” he said.

“I think it’s only fair that there should be an honest-to-goodness evaluation as to the actions of the MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) officials. Justice should be served,” he added.

Cimatu on Friday relieved the top four officials of the MGB in Central Visayas who earlier said the cracks found in the mountains of Tinaan were but a natural phenomenon and not caused by the quarry operations of Apo Land and Quarry Corporation in Tinaan.

Ordered relieved from their posts were MGB-7 Director Loreto Alburo; Gerardo Mahusay, chief of the bureau’s Finance and Administrative Division; Dennis Aleta, supervising geologist; and Al Emil Berador, chief geologist.

Have faith

Even as they mourned the death of their loved ones, Palma reminded victims of the landslide to keep going and to trust God.

“In moments like this, we do have a lot of questions. We may ask God, why he allowed this to happen, and silence is the answer we received,” he told families of those who perished in the calamity who were gathered at the Naga City badminton court on Saturday.

“In the midst of grief and lamentations, let us offer everything to God who is with us. He understands our cries and sadness for He too suffered and was killed,” he added.

As of 6 p.m. on Saturday, at least six more bodies were dug out from the landslide area, bringing the death toll to 35.

At least 44 persons were still missing while 15 survivors were rescued.

Rescuers momentarily suspended the search and rescue operation following a heavy downpour at past 1 p.m. on Saturday.

They eventually resumed operations after the rains stopped an hour later.

Still hoping for survivors

“Technically, we still believe that there are still persons who are still alive down there that is why we are very careful with our operations,” said Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) chief Baltazar Tribunalo.

Two life detection machines from the Office of the Civil Defense in Manila arrived in Naga City on
Saturday.

“The support from the people is overflowing,” he said.

Tribunalo said they are planning to use the “tunneling system” wherein rescuers will search through the debris to find out whether or not there are still survivors who got stuck on the rocks and mud.

Naga City Councilor Junjie Cruz, the spokesperson of the city government, expressed gratitude to the rescuers and all those who sent aids and sympathies.

He said at least 1,059 families composed of 4,031 individuals are presently taking shelter at the different evacuations centers in the city.

“Our target now is the relocation of these people,” he said.

Aside from the Balili property, Cruz said they have identified another area where the affected families can build their homes.

“We appeal to the people to cooperate with us so that they will all be safe,” he said.

A number of individuals living near the landslide area have evacuated although a few chose to remain.

Liabilities

Meanwhile, environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said public officials, including those from the MGB may face perpetual disqualification and criminal liabilities if proven that they have failed to perform their duties on disaster risk reduction and management.

“Even officers from the LGU (local government unit) may be held accountable,” said Ramos, citing the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act or Republic Act No. 10121.

Anyone found guilty of committing this act, both private entities or individuals and public officers, may be fined or face imprisonment of not less than six years and one day or more than 12 years.

“(This includes) perpetual disqualification from public office if the offender is a public officer, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of the objects and the instrumentalities used in committing any of herein prohibited acts,” the law added.

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TAGS: backs, halt, mining, Palma

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