Miners voluntarily raze down houses in Pantukan

Residents of Sitio Panganason-B, Barangay Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province, dismantle their house after authorities ordered all residents to evacuate the village of small-scale miners. The order came after authorities declared the village as a danger zone in the wake of the deadly landslide that killed at least 13 miners almost a week ago. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday More

PANTUKAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/27 Apr) – The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Council (MRRDC) on Wednesday said 60 of 112 houses have been voluntarily demolished by miners while the rest are still being razed down by the demolition team and local residents.

But the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) has recorded that 57 families have evacuated from the declared danger zone near the landslide site at Sitio Panganason-B in Barangay Kingking as the 48-hour deadline expired 5 p.m. Tuesday. These families were given P5,000 cash and food assistance from the local government.

An MSWDO worker said some families may have failed to register because they might be staying with their relatives within the vicinity if Sitio Panganason and nearby villages.

But she is confident that all the 112 families will evacuate even after the deadline.

“After the 48-hour deadline, we will no longer record them here and they are no longer entitled to receive the P5,000 assistance,” she said.

Local government officials have imposed a 48-hour deadline for the residents to evacuate after fissures have been found just above the landslide site.

The evacuation order came after geologists have warned that the fissures may trigger another landslide because of the rains.

Arnulfo Lantaya, newly designated spokesperson of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Council (MRRDC), said that during the consultation with residents, they vowed to follow the local government’s order.

Lantaya added some had earlier refused to voluntarily vacate the area but later signified to evacuate.

The families started dismantling their shanties as early as 5 a.m.

Even though just about an hour away from the 5 p.m. deadline, 43-year-old Reynaldo Vasquez had just started dismantling his shanty, where his ball mill shop had been operating for the past two years. He said he is willing to relocate his shop in a safer place.

“I’m following the government’s order. They allowed us to have our livelihood here, it is only proper that we’d also do what they want us to do. Anyway, it’s also for our own good,” he said as started to dismantle the roof of the his shop.

Vasquez added that he also owns two tunnels just a few meters below his shop but it is already part of Sitio Panganason-A, which is on the other side of the landslide site.

He said he will transfer his ball mill shop near his house, about 300 meters away uphill.

But despite the government’s assistance, Titing Morales, 42, lamented that the P5,000 is not enough for their needs since they still have to pay laborers to transport their ball mill drums, machines and other equipment.

Morales said laborers are asking P1,000 to transport an 80-kilo machine that is used to run the ball mill drums. To transport each of the 80-kilo drums costs P600. “I have nine drums and two machines. It would cost me a lot to haul all of my equipment. We started at 5 a.m. It’s already 4 p.m. now and we are not yet done,” he said.
HEAVY BURDEN. Laborers carry a heavy machine for ball mills up into the mountains in Sitio Panganason-B, Barangay Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province. Local authorities have declared the village as a danger zone in the wake of the deadly landslide that killed at least 13 miners almost a week ago and ordered all residents to vacate the area. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday More
Two laborers were using bamboo poles or rounded timber to haul the machine one at a time. It was taking them one hour to climb 400 meters uphill from the shanties to the evacuation area.

Lantaya said the local government is already eyeing a relocation site for the evicted residents but geologists have yet to assess the area if it is safe from landslides, too.

He added among the provisions agreed upon during the dialogue is livelihood assistance but only for those originally from Pantukan.

Many of the miners, Lantaya said, are actually from other provinces. Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas, he added, is prioritizing his constituents.

On Sunday, local government officials have expressed fears that even light rains may trigger another landslide in the gold-rush site.

Thirteen people were killed while 10 others remain missing after a landslide swept a gold mining site on April 22.

Geologists have discovered 70-meter long and one-foot wide fissures just above the landslide site.

This has exhorted local government officials to evacuate the miners out of the danger zone. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)