THE Talisay City Government has issued a cease and desist order and a show cause order against persons allegedly engaged in treasure hunting in Purok Colis, Barangay Cadulawan, Talisay City, Cebu, following complaints by residents disturbed by the digging activities.

This was what Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. said in a statement sent to SunStar Cebu on Monday, April 17, 2023.

Thirty residents have signed a petition against two persons allegedly engaged in the treasure hunting.

Cadulawan Barangay Captain Josefina Poncial said the petitioners are worried about the impact of the activity on the area.

She said some barangay councilors accompanied the residents when they met with City Administrator Rodelyn Navarro and the head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the city on Monday.

Poncial said the petitioners will file a case against Nestor Canunayon and his live-in partner Marissa Abadiano, who happens to be the purok leader and a member of the barangay lupon.

The Lupon Tagapamayapa is the system for the amicable settlement of disputes in the barangay. It is an out-of-court resolution of conflicts by the community members themselves under the guidance of the barangay captain, who leads the lupon that is composed of 10 to 20 members.

According to the barangay captain, the “treasure hunt” has no permit from the barangay, the City Hall or the DENR.

She said the couple also did not ask the owner of the land, a private entity called Lad Corp., for permission to conduct excavation works.

Started years ago

Poncial said the “treasure hunt” started in 2019.

When the barangay confronted Canunayon and Abadiano that year, they said they were building a septic tank.

But when the barangay started receiving complaints about a “treasure hunt” in the same year, Poncial said they returned to inspect the site.

However, she said the couple then told them they were digging a deep well.

Poncial said the hole is very deep, adding that there are residents who will testify that the hole is being used to hunt for treasure.

Abadiano admitted in 2019 that they did the wrong thing when they dug the hole, but she insisted that it was for a deep well.


Liziel Ambrad, one of the complainants, said they were afraid the ground under their houses would give way after one of their neighbors, who allegedly joined the treasure hunt, said it was hollow underneath.

On Monday, residents showed SunStar Cebu some cracks in their houses which they believe were caused by the continued digging in the area.

The others said they had problems sleeping at night because they could hear excavation noises under their houses.

The petitioners want Mayor Gullas and Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to look into the matter and take action.

They also want the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR in Central Visayas to inspect the site.

MGB to investigate

Maricita Cabasa, senior communication development officer of DENR 7, said that for activities like these, permits must be secured from the MGB.

“They really need a permit from our Mines Bureau. And then we have what we call an area clearance. Before any treasure hunting, the MGB will conduct an assessment of the area,” Cabasa said.

Upon receiving the report from SunStar Cebu on the alleged “treasure hunting,” Cabasa said DENR Regional Director Paquito Melicor Jr. immediately sent a memorandum to the MGB to conduct an investigation and assessment in the area.

Cabasa said that they took action immediately since the situation was alarming.

Received reports

In his late afternoon statement, Mayor Gullas said he had learned about the alleged “treasure hunting” last week.

“After receiving the report last Friday, I immediately instructed the heads of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) and City Engineering Office to inspect the area and verify the matter,” Gullas said.

He said the operator denied conducting a treasure hunt and said they were digging for a septic tank.

“However, our personnel found out that the excavations being done are unlikely for a septic tank because of its depth and dimension and most especially, the extent of the digging which formed several openings at the bottom,” the mayor said.

His personnel also discovered that the operator had built a house and fenced the property “so that they could resume excavation without being seen from the outside.”

The mayor said the barangay officials also thought that the operator was only constructing a septic tank but were “surprised as to the extent of the operator’s excavation.”

Gullas said the City had requested the DENR and the MGB to conduct their own inspection of the illegal excavation for assessment and monitoring.

“The city legal office will file the necessary complaint for excavating sans permit from the city,” Gullas added. “We are also seeking help from DENR on how we can cover the excavated area at the operator’s expense.”

He said the city legal office would help the affected residents with legal remedies on their complaints. (GPL / PJB, EKV)