TEN years ago, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7 already noted that families in Sitio Sindulan, Barangay Tina-an, City of Naga, should be relocated.
According to the bureau, a geohazard mapping was done between 2006 and 2010 using the scale of 1:50,000.
In the field data sheet of that geohazard mapping, Tina-an was labeled moderately susceptible to landslide. This means that the barangay is moderately sloping, there is presence of small tension cracks, which are located from the community, and it has areas with inactive and old landslide.
Geologist Abraham Lucero Jr. (now retired) identified in his 2008 field report that there are 26 families affected. He requested that they be relocated.
Another geohazard mapping was done between 2011 and 2014 with a scale of 1:10,000, which means a bigger or more detailed assessment. But the previous map’s recommendations continue to stand.
From 2008 until that fateful day of Sept. 20, 2018 when a community in Sitio Sindulan was buried under a landslide, MGB 7 had been reminding the City Government of the geohazard map and to follow the recommendations therein.
The latest advisories released by MGB were generic ones dated Aug. 13 and 22 this year, which were issued because it was reported that there will be six to eight tropical cyclones expected during the second half of this year. A similar advisory was sent out on Sept. 13 because of Typhoon Ompong.
Relocating the families could have made a difference in Sindulan between 2008 and now, said MGB 7’s Armando Malicse, chief of the mine safety, environment and social development division.
Following last week’s massive landslide, Barangay Tina-an’s rating has been upgraded to highly susceptible to landslide.
But as far as the cracks found in Sitio Tagaytay, particularly in the Apo Land and Quarry Corp. (ALQC) tenement, a geological investigation was made on Aug. 29 based on the request of City of Naga Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong.
A communication signed by lawyer Gerardo Mahusay, chief of MGB’s finance and administrative division, states that the cracks and fissures in the site are “natural phenomenon” and “do not pose imminent danger to the neighboring community.”
During a second geological investigation on Sept. 18, however, the lengths of the cracks found on Aug. 29 increased and the cracks and fissures that were not seen during the first investigation were found. This prompted MGB to recommend the “immediate forced evacuation of all residents near the area.”
Most of the residents in Sitio Tagaytay were evacuated to Guanzon Beach Resort. Sitio Sindulan was not so lucky since no recent geological investigation was made in the area.
But since there was no crack found in Sindulan and there was no request for geological investigation, MGB 7 never proceeded to the area.
While the Sept. 20 landslide directly hit Sitio Tagaytay, the debris from the landslide reached and buried Sindulan.
MGB 7 stands by its original findings that the cracks and fissures were caused by a natural phenomenon. Cracks are part of the characteristic of limestone. This is why Malicse found it too harsh that people are blaming MGB for the landslide.
The landslide, he said, was water-induced due to the continuous rain.
Chiong, however, questioned MGB for claiming to have warned them of possible landslides in Tina-an but issued a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) to the Apo Land and Quarry Corp. (ALQC).
Chiong said that a year after MGB 7 gave them the updated geohazard maps, the same agency issued an MPSA to ALQC.
An MPSA is an agreement made between a mining company and the National Government for the mining of certain resource with a specific sharing scheme with the government.
She also said that the initial assessment of MGB calling the cracks as caused by “natural phenomenon” is an indication of the agency’s lack of foresight.
“I’m not pointing fingers here. The documents will speak for themselves,” she said.
As to the second investigation conducted by MGB 7, Chiong said the agency has not provided the City with a copy of the technical report.
Asked if ALQC’s site development had anything to do with the increase in the size of cracks in the area, Malicse said they are not off the hook.
“I don’t want to discount that it is absolutely wala (none),” he said. “That’s why there will be an investigation,” he added.
But investigation on liability is not a priority for now.
A team from the MGB central office arrived in Cebu yesterday to conduct an investigation on the incident. But this would be more historical and futuristic in nature as MGB will get the details of the incident for recommendations for the future.
But as acting head of MGB 7, Malicse will be fielding technical personnel to the different quarry sites today. This is based on the order from central office directing all regional directors of MGB where quarry operations were suspended to inspect quarry sites in their areas of responsibility.
Meanwhile, the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) will summon officials of MGB 7, Chiong, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and ALQC, among others, next month to shed light on the tragic incident.
They also passed a resolution giving cash aid to the families of those who died and for the ongoing search, rescue and retrieval operations. (with JKV, FVQ)