THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the landslide which occurred in level 070, Barangay Ucab in Itogon, Benguet was not caused by mining.
“Iyong landslide na iyon it was not caused by mining. Kasi wala pong mining operation kung saan nanggaling iyong debris materials,” said Fay Apil, regional director of MGB-Cordillera.
“Iyong mga small-scale miners nasa downslope sila, iyong landslide nangyari sa bundok, nahulog iyong debris materials na tumama sa mga shanties ng small-scale miners na nasa loob ng property ng Benguet Corporation,” she added.
During the situation briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte in Benguet, Apil also said for the whole month of August, Baguio and Benguet experienced continuous monsoon rains which made the situation worse as the huge amount of rainfall during Typhoon Ompong caused the area to erode.
The weather state bureau, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), also pointed out the irregular amount of rainfall experienced in Baguio City and Benguet.
Apil added 970 millimeters within 12 hours of rainfall was experienced during the typhoon.
Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso in a press conference in Itogon attributed the tragedy as a force majuere.
The governor added the province is highly susceptible to erosion, where heavy rains came with Habagat followed by Typhoon Ompong that saturated the soil.
Engineer Felizardo Gacad, MGB-Cordillera Mine Safety and Environment Division chief, also pointed out the landslide was due to aggravating circumstances and not to small-scale mining activities, adding that the bureau has been distributing to local government units geo-hazard map which the LGUs would need as a guide before constructing any structure within their area.
“As early as 2011, a geo-hazard assessment have been done by MGB particularly at the exact same spot which is now called ground zero and as early that year, the area have been identified to be in a very high landslide susceptible area which we provided to authorities. The incident which happened at Ucab was not due to the mining activities but was aggravated by other conditions,” Gacad stressed.
The geo-hazard map indicates possible areas where landslide and flooding may occur. It also serves as a guide and basis for LGU’s in planning where their construction of roads or structures should be situated, aside from having a design of a structure which would withstand the hazards available at an area.
“The landslide which occurred at Ucab during Typhoon Ompong previously experienced a slide during Typhoon Mina. And the materials located on top of the road network was pushed downwards where the families of the small scale miners were unfortunately located,” added Gacad.
In the area of informing the residents, Gacad said authorities were not remised of their duties in informing the affected communities since they were informed to undergo preemptive evacuation wherein the families agreed prior to the passing of Typhoon Ompong but unfortunately was delayed.
“During the incident, the families were not working at their mining areas but were actually in their safe house which they thought according to reports was a safe building located underneath the landslide area,” Gacad added.