HEAVY and continuous rains in the past five days triggered a massive landslide that rendered a major road artery to the Palinpinon geothermal power plants and some mountain barangays in Valencia, Negros Oriental, impassable.
Engr. Vicente Omandam Jr., senior manager of the Negros Island Geothermal Business Unit (Nigbu) of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) that owns and operates the power plants, said Thursday, May 25, that the landslide occurred around midnight Wednesday at Sitio Baybayon, Barangay Pulangbato in Valencia.
No casualty was reported at the road bounded by cliffs on one side and the Okoy River on the other side, as it is an uninhabited area.
About 100 cubic meters of oversized boulders, soil, mud and other debris rolled off the tall cliff, blocking the road and with the large rocks and boulders landing in the river.
Omandam said EDC-Nigbu immediately deployed heavy equipment, alongside that of the Valencia local government unit, to start clearing operations to make the road temporarily passable to light vehicles.
Early morning commuters and motorists were stranded until a portion of the road was opened around 8 a.m. Thursday to allow them to pass.
Omandam said they expect the road to be fully opened by Friday, May 26, as clearing of debris would continue without let-up on Thursday.
The huge boulders stuck in the river will be broken down into smaller pieces before being removed, as they would obstruct the river and contribute to flooding, he added.
He also said that massive rainfall over the last five days in Valencia had saturated the rocks and soil, causing it to loosen and finally giving way late Wednesday evening.
Omandam said the landslide area was outside of the EDC’s project site, but the company had to respond immediately for clearing operations, as it was the main road to their offices and power plants and for the residents of Barangays Puhagan, Malaunay and Caidiocan up in the mountains.
The clearing operations is part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility and at the same time its help to the community, he said.
A few years ago, the same road collapsed after continuous heavy rains inundated the area, said Omandam.
The EDC is hoping to expand the road to a few meters wider as soon as funds are available, but a study has yet to be made on the best stabilization measure for the area, he said.
Norreen Bautista, EDC-Nigbu's assistant manager for Community Partnership, External Relations and Watershed Management division, cited the company’s partnership with the Valencia local government unit (LGU) in disaster response.
She assured that EDC would respond to any disasters and emergencies whether inside or part of its project area or beyond, as part of their disaster preparedness program and CSR.
Meanwhile, Valencia Mayor Edgar Teves admitted that the town was susceptible to landslides because of its vast mountains.
He thanked the EDC for their quick response in assisting the LGU in the clearing operations.
Teves also said he was expecting more landslides in the coming days during strong rains.
He stressed the need to put up warning signs in the area, as he admitted it was difficult to scale that steep mountain and it was impossible to institute preventive measures to prevent more landslides.
For now, the immediate solution will only be to respond to similar incidents and clear the road when a landslide occurs, he said.
Long-term solutions will also entail a lot of financing to stabilize the landslide-prone areas and Teves said the LGU cannot afford this. (PNA)