Vice governor Zubiri says Bukidnon not to blame for ‘Sendong’ floods

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/25 January) – For Bukidnon Vice Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri,  “local governments and national government who have not shown sympathy to the poor” not the local government of the province is to blame for the devastation wrought by floods induced by tropical storm Sendong last month.

“There’s no mining in Bukidnon except the one in Gango (in Libona town). We have barred several mining companies from entering Bukidnon. So please don’t our province,” Zubiri, speaking in Cebuano, told participants of a forum here Wednesday organized by Balsa Mindanao.

“When I received the text of what had happened here, I immediately called all the province’s board members for an emergency session. We were among the very first neighboring local government units that responded here and in Iligan City,” he added.

He said that their Sangguiniang Panlalawigan had long enacted local laws banning logging and mining in the province.

Reports that came out shortly after ‘Sendong’ said that some sectors blamed the floods on supposed mining and logging activities in Bukidnon.

Bukidnon has imposed a logging moratorium since 1989, but timber poaching has been reported in parts of the province from time to time.

Human rights lawyer Beverly Selim-Musni, one of the convenors of Balsa Mindanao, said they welcomed Zubiri’s pronouncement on local laws that ban logging and mining in the province.

“The vice governor’s local environmental laws is good news but we would also like to suggest that they include enacting local legislation to put a stop on the expansion of corprate farms and plantations like Del Monte which has contributed to the denudation of natural forest covers in the region,” Selim-Musni said.

She added they have also launched an independent investigation on why the flashfloods brought so much mud.

“In the 2009 floods, it rained intermittently for at least a whole week but it was not as muddy and catastrophic as the floods brought by Sendong last December 17,” she said.

Selim-Musni said they will hold a 40th day commemoration today for the more than 1,000 victims who died in the floods.

Last month, Sendong brought 180 mm of rainwater that washed out communities along the Cagayan River and coastal areas.

In less than 12 hours, flashfloods submerged 25 of this city’s 80 barangays. It claimed at least a thousand lives with thousands more missing and feared dead, leveled homes, uprooted communities and covered schools with mud.

Balsa Mindanao’s forum dubbed “Justice for the environment victims: A look into 40 days after Sendong, what lies ahead,” held at the Pilgrim Christian College Auditorium, was a standing-room-only event.

Balsa Mindanao is an island-wide citizen-led disaster relief operations and advocates “climate justice.”

Zubiri donated P200,000 to the group for the “furtherance of its cause.” (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)