Landslide death toll rises to 36

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Monday, January 9, 2012


RESCUERS recovered on Monday four more bodies, bringing to 36 the number of people who died after a landslide hit a small-scale mining site in Pantukan, Compostela Valley last week, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) said.

Of the four bodies found, two have been identified as Garnado Ofton and Paquito Piayo. The other two have not been named.

The landslide in Diat 1, Barangay Napnapan, Pantukan, last January 5 due to continuous rains also left 16 injured, five of them still in the hospital. There are about 40 people still to be traced.

In a report to the NDRRMC, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Davao Region said 28 of the fatalities were identified.

Of the recovered fatalities, 22 were brought to Saint Therese Funeral Homes in Mabini, Compostela Valley; four were brought to Angel Funeral Homes in Pantukan; one was brought to her house in San Isidro, Davao Oriental; and another one was brought to St. Peter's, Tagum City.

List of identified fatalities, missing and injured persons in the Pantukan, Compostela Valley landslide

NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said fewer rescuers were seen on Monday compared to the last three days of search and rescue operations.

Among the rescue teams were the Tactical Operations Group Davao Region of the Philippine Air Force, 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, 5053rd Search and Rescue Squadron, 71st Infantry Battalion, Pantukan Police Office, small-scale miners groups, Apex Mining Co., Philippine Red Cross Comval and Davao City Chapters, Tagum City Rescue Team and PDRRMC Davao Oriental Rescue Team.

Ramos and OCD regional director Liza Mazo already distributed financial assistance to the families of the fatalities at Saint Theresa Funeral Homes and injured victims at Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City.

Meanwhile, Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy is creating an independent commission that will look into the culpability of Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas on the landslide. Uy said the commission will determine who will be held liable for the tragedy.

He said they received information that Sarenas failed to enforce the "No Habitation Policy" of the local government in Sitio Diat, Barangay Napnapan, because the mayor himself maintains mine tunnels in the area.

After a forced evacuation following a landslide in Kingking, Pantukan in April 2011, small-scale miners returned to the mining sites despite the "No Habitation Policy" that was approved in June 2011.

Militant groups also urged Monday the government to address the concerns of the small-scale miners in Pantukan town by relocating them, instead of blaming them.

Save Pantukan Alliance spokesperson Belen Galleto said the landslide shouldn’t be blamed on the small-scale miners alone because six large-scale mining companies are also operating in the area.

Among the foreign mining firms are Nationwide Development Corporation with 1,656 hectares; Napnapan Miner Resource and Corporation with 4,912 hectares; Blue Mountain Exploration Mining with 1,600 hectares; Lion Share Mining Company with 4,000 hectares; Southern Horizon with around 2,000 hectares; and Russel Mines and Minerals Inc. with 1,656 hectares.

Juland Suazo, secretary-general of the Panalipdan in Southern Mindanao Region, said the government should provide livelihood programs for the residents of Pantukan and strengthen the “Minahan ng Bayan” program instead of relocating the small-scale miners to another places.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Davao Region identified 19 existing small-scale mining processing plants in high risk areas in Pantukan, which Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said will be dismantled.

Robredo said affected mining workers and their families will be given cash livelihood assistance.

Edilberto Arreza, regional director of MGB Davao Region, said though small-scale miners were provided with an area known as “Minahang Bayan”, they have not filed for small-scale mining contract, which is needed by MGB to help them plan mining operations.

Arreza also said Monday mining will still be allowed in Pantukan despite being listed in the highly susceptible landslide area.

He admitted that Napnapan Minerals Resources Inc. and Pantukan Gold and Copper Project are conducting separate pre-mining feasibility studies in Napnapan, Sitio Kingking, Pantukan town, Compostela Valley.

“If they are able to provide us with a plan that will address the concerns on landslide, we might be able to still give them (mining firms) the permits they need,” Arreza said.

MGB has identified more landslide prone areas in the region, namely: Sitio Bango in Barangay Ngan, Maco, Compostela Valley; Kamanlangan in New Bataan, Compostela Valley; Mainit in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley; Mt. Diwalwal in Monkayo, Compostela Valley; Barangay Kalapagan in San Mariano, Davao Oriental; Marayag in Lupon, Davao Oriental; Boston town in Davao Oriental. (BOT/JDA/ICT/Carmelle Marie Harrow of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 10, 2012.

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