EVACUEES CAN’T GO HOME YET
Chiong: No go-signal from DENR if families living outside ground zero in Naga can return to their houses
Their house is located two mountains away from the landslide-stricken community of Barangay Tinaan in Naga City, southern Cebu.
But 41-year-old Tarciana Capablanca, her husband and three children were forced to leave their home by the government.
Close to two weeks after the tragedy on Sept. 20 that killed 77 people, the Capablancas were raring to go home.
“Naghuwat lang mi sa desisyon sa mayor kung papaulion na ba mi. Lahi ra man gud dinhi sa evacuation center kay maglisod mi og katulog usahay,” she said in an interview.
(We’re waiting for the decision of the mayor on whether or not we would be allowed to go home. It is different here at the evacuation center because there are times we have difficulty sleeping.)
Capablanca, whose family takes temporarily shelter at the Naga Central Elementary School, said she was also worried about their belongings and livestock that were left behind.
But Capablanca as well as the rest of the evacuees will have to wait for a little longer.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had yet to allow these 1,719 families or 6,961 individuals to go back to their homes.
Naga City Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong on Monday said a team of geologists from the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau had just completed identifying the critical or unsafe zones surrounding ground zero.
“They have identified more or less 270 structures. As of now, our personnel are marking the structures to validate how many of these structures are houses, and how many families will be affected by the delineation,” she told reporters.
Unless the DENR gave the city government a go- signal that these families could back to their homes, Chiong said they had to stay in the evacuation centers.
These more than 1,700 families were forced to evacuate on orders of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Sept. 21 since their houses were located within the one-km radius from ground zero.
Among those evacuated were residents of Barangays Tinaan and Naalad, which were directly affected by the landslide, and neighboring villages of Pangdan, Cabungahan and Mainit.
As of Monday, death toll on the landslide reached 77 while 16 body parts had been retrieved. At least eight persons remained missing.
Chiong said the area within the critical zone, on the other hand, would have to be abandoned since it was already declared a no-build zone.
Gilbert Gonzales, DENR-7 director, said in a message sent to Chiong, that the MGB central office had yet to discuss if these residents whose houses were outside the critical zones could go back to their homes.
Chiong, however, assured the affected residents that the city government would exhaust all means to help them.
She said those whose houses were in the critical zone would be given priority in the distribution of the 320-unit socialized housing program of the National Housing Authority (NHA).
NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalado and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chair Eduardo delos Reyes earlier promised to fund the construction of the housing project during their visit in Naga City last Sept. 25.
Considered as relocation sites were a portion of the Balili property in Barangay Tinaan, and a one-hectare lot beside the Gawad Kalinga Compound in Purok 6, Barangay Inoburan.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III was considering donating the 24.7-hectare beachfront property to Naga City so it could be used as a relocation site for families affected by the landslide.
The purchase and backfilling of parts of the Balili property during the administration of former governor and now Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu’s 3rd district have been the subject of a graft case before the Sandiganbayan.
In August 2009, Garcia apologized to the people of Cebu for what she said were lapses in the purchase of the property which was largely underwater and covered with mangroves.
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from public service of Garcia and her perpetual disqualification from running for public office for purportedly backfilling the largely underwater property but the dismissal order was not implemented by the House of Representatives which has jurisdiction over Garcia.
The MGB already gave the go-signal for the use of the Balili property as a relocation site.
Since the Balili property is a coastal and reclaimed area, the Naga City government requested the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) to determine whether or not the place was safe from earthquake, tsunami and storm surge, among others.
Purok 6 in Barangay Inoburan, however, could not be used as a relocation site since, according to MGB, it was a flood-prone area.
Chiong said she already furnished the NHA, Davide, Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) a copy of the geologic assessment report.
In the meantime, Chiong said the mining team from MGB central office had yet to submit a report on its assessment on the mining operations in the mountains of Naga City.
Cimatu had not lifted its suspension on the quarry operations in Naga City.
The environment secretary earlier suspended the Environment Compliance Certificate of the Apo Land and Quarry Corp. (ALQC) during his visit in Naga City pending the assessment of the MGB mining team.
In previous interviews, Chito Maniago, the representative of ALQC, said they were open to any investigation or assessment that would be conducted by the government agencies.
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