THERE are two types of calamities. The natural one is caused by nature (example: typhoon, earthquake, tsunami and volcanic eruption). Man-made calamities are caused by people (example: fire, vehicular accident, chemical explosion, etc.). The difference between natural and man-made disasters is human intent or negligence.
What happened in Barangay Tina-an, City of Naga the other day was both natural and man-made. Natural because the land moved due to heavy rainfall. Man-made because humans destroyed the environment due to the quarry operations.
Residents in the area claimed that the site of the incident, especially sitios Tagaytay and Sindulan where most of the victims’ residences were located, is part of the huge operation by Apo Land and Quarry Corp. (ALQC). The company also has quarry sites in the other areas in the mountains of Naga that covers around 300 hectares.
Chito Maniago, spokesman of ALQC, denied that the company had started quarrying in Sitio Tagaytay, a part of whose mountain collapsed and covered Sitio Sindulan where most of the victims’ houses were located. He admitted, though, that the area is part of their quarry site. He made this clarification after some quarters blamed the company’s quarry operation for the landslide.
Baltazar Tribunalo, chief of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said the collapsed portion covers around 80 hectares and the volume of the land and boulders that covered the residential areas could be as high as a three-story building. How can the rescuers immediately conduct a search, rescue and retrieval operation with that volume of land and boulders?
Heavy equipment from the provincial government and private construction companies have already accessed the area and aided rescuers in the conduct of the search and retrieval operations. As of noon yesterday, the body count has reached 12 while the number of those rescued have reached 10. More than a hundred people are feared to have been buried.
According to some residents, more than 20 households have been covered with debris. So if there are five persons per household, around 100 could have been victimized. Tribunalo said search, rescue and retrieval efforts will take one week. He believes that, as of yesterday, there are still survivors because some of them were able to send text messages to their friends and relatives while they were under the rubble.
The finger pointing was not only limited to the quarry firm. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was also heavily criticized because of the agency’s letter to Naga City Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong giving assurance that the situation in Sitio Tagaytay where the mountain showed big cracks was not critical and did not pose hazard and imminent danger to the neighboring community.
MGB sent a team of investigators to the area last month to assess the threat after big cracks were noticed. The team found nothing alarming there. Pero naunsa na man ni karon? Maayo pa’g kamoy ipanglubong didto.