“Are they going to wait for someone to die before sending help?”

Cortizano has reasons to fear. She had earlier worked with residents in putting up a two-room cultural learning center for pre-schoolers near the Maluan primary school building,  some 40 meters away from the banks of Upian River. A landslide near the school might destroy the building and affect the education of children in the area, she said.

Landslide had earlier struck the area, on November 22, destroying five houses and nine farms. But villagers reported seeing more cracks on the ground, tall trees being swallowed by land, corn farms covered by rocks and soil and huts destroyed. And even as barangay chair Leonilo Suyko has sought the assistance of the City Engineers' Office, they have not received a positive response, he said.

The Nov. 22 landslide left a swathe of destruction over 23 hectares. The City Agriculture Office estimated the damage at P1.1 million. Nobody was reported killed or injured during the incident.

The sitio, which has a population of 37 households,  is located 10 kilometers from the highway, in an area considered by the Office of the Civil Defense as "prone to landslides."

Farmer Pedro Ardenio, 53, lost around two hectares of corn plants to the landslide. He is among nine farmers who suffered from the landslide. His house was among the five that was carried along the landslide path. 

Jimmy Iturma, 54, said he was supposed to harvest produce from his one hectare corn farm on Dec. 10.   Iturma's root crops, which were supposed to be alternative meal, were also uprooted, his house among those carried by the slide.

"I'm afraid that my family will have no more food to eat one of these days," he said. 

 "We are afraid that more cracks will lead to bigger landslides. We might be displaced here," said Adelaida Kamad, 49. Kamad also fears the river will no longer be as clean and as clear. It is their only place for washing clothes but a week ago, she said, she could not do her routine because the river was muddy.

Suyko said new cracks on the ground had been discovered and expressed fears of a worst case scenario when the heavy rains come. Two more villages downstream, with a population of 70 households, are also at risk.

Suyko said personnel from the City Social Services and Welfare Development Office came here after the incident and gave relief goods while personnel from the City Agriculture Office came to monitor the damage.

But he said the Davao City's Engineers' Office has not sent personnel and equipment. He said he heard that engineers came but did not coordinate with him so he does not know when work could be done.

Engineer Rowee Roncales, from the City Engineers' Office, said they came here two weeks ago to assess the needs and determine what equipment can be brought.

He admitted that work has not been started there because they were assigned to nearby Sitio Manubag, where, he said, the need for immediate repair was greater.

Roncales said they have yet to schedule work in Maluan. 

Suyko said that while waiting for assistance,  they organized a "bayanihan" (volunteer work) on December 6 to remove a portion of the land mass so water can flow again and drain the artificial lake.  

"But we can only do so much. The capacity of the barangay to mobilize work is limited because we have no equipment," he said.

He said the assessment and recommendation of city officials on the incident are very important.

He expressed hopes what happened in Leyte won’t happen here.

"Sitio Maluan belongs to an old land mass movement area in Marilog," according to a report from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Mines and Geo Sciences Bureau (Southeastern Mindanao).

The report also pointed out that the village is above an "old mass movement deposit" and recommended that authorities remedy the water impounding situation and constantly monitor the area. It also recommended information and education campaign in the area itself. 

Betty Cabazares of Kinaiyahan Foundation, Inc. reported cracks on the ground in nearby Sitio Nam-nam. She said the government must explain to the people the risk in the area so that they can take precautionary measures.

Cortizaño also proposed a dialogue between the villagers and authorities to explain to them and guide them how to respond to the problem. She added that while it might be true that the villagers' slash and burn farming practice has contributed to the problem. "the government should at least help teach them alternative means.”  (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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