Pantukan landslide site declared a no-habitation zone

DANGER ZONE A photo of the upper portion of the landslide site at Sitio Panganason in Barangay Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley province. The provincial and local government has given the miners occupying the area beside the landslide site to evacuate in 48 hours staring Monday, April 25, after cracks have been found just above the landslide site. Five persons were killed and 17 others remained missing after landslide hit a portion of the village on Friday, April 22. MindaNews Photo by Keith Bacongco

DAVAOCITY (MindaNews/25 April) — The site in Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking in Pantukan, Compostela Valley where a landslide occurred Friday has been closed to human occupancy after the local government ordered Sunday the forced relocation within 48 hours of some 30 families living in the area.

The landslide has left eight persons dead and 15 others missing as of late afternoon Monday.

“We have to forcibly relocate the residents because another landslide can happen anytime,” said Director Liza Mazo of the Office of Civil Defense Region XI.

Mazo said more families may be relocated, not just 30 as earlier estimated.

She added the local government of Compostela Valley has already found an evacuation center for the displaced residents where they may have to stay for months as the relocation site is still being prepared.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) National Director Leo Jasanero said in a press conference that the no-habitation zone would cover less than five hectares of the area.

Blaming illegal small-scale mining activities as the main reason of Friday’s disaster, Jasanero said “the landslide was not primarily caused by the rain. The site is really a weak area that is vulnerable to landslides.”

He said the MGB had detected [the possibility of landslides in the area] in their geo-hazard mapping three years ago. “Upon knowing this, we distributed geo-hazard maps to every unit concerned. There were efforts to inform the community but siguro kulang pa ‘yun (maybe it wasn’t enough).”

“Pardon the words that I’ll be using, but this community of illegal miners, para silang mga daga (they’re like rats). They dig everywhere. We went to the landslide site, at nu’ng sinuri namin, mapanganib talaga yu’ng kinatatayuan ng mga bahay dahil do’n mismo sila naghuhukay sa ilalim (and when we surveyed the area, we saw that it’s really dangerous because they dug holes right under their houses). They are aware of the danger but they have to survive.”

Janasero said they found 50 tunnels in the area which were all illegal.

“Right now, the implication of this incident is national for us at MGB. We are inclined to put a stop to small-scale mining activities and propose the revival of Minahang Bayan, where the miners don’t process on their own anymore but as a cooperative,” he said.

The official said the incident will definitely affect the decision of MGB on applications for mining permits.

He added the MGB plans to come up with a proposed national policy concerning small-scale mining.

Ito na ang panahon na magkaroon ng (This is the time to muster) political will to rationalize small-scale mining. This incident provides a bird’s eye view for us in identifying the future of small-scale mining,” he said. (Joan Mae Soco-Bantayan/MindaNews)