Davao’s Shrine Hills “a tragedy waiting to happen”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 October) – The Shrine Hills has remained a “tragedy waiting to happen”, an official of an environment group said Tuesday after the upper portion of the area collapsed Thursday last week resulting to a road closure that caused monstrous traffic in the south.

Interface Development Interventions executive director Chinkie Pelino-Golle said they believe that similar incidents might recur due to poor regulations and monitoring mechanism of the city government on the new developments around Shrine Hills in Matina.

The road closure resulted in a monstrous traffic build-up in the south. In an update Monday evening, the Diversion Road was already opened to one-way traffic from Bangkal to Panacan (from south going north only).

The landslide was said to be triggered by a downpour, construction of buildings, and ongoing road expansion being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) along Diversion Road.

“The LGU (local government unit) could have regularly monitored the area and ensured the strict regulation of construction activities at the top,” Golle said.

She expressed dismay over the apparent disregard of the warning on geological hazards issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 11 declaring the Shrine Hills “vulnerable to landslide and erosion”.

She added that the DPWH bulldozed the area without coordinating with the LGU or knowing the geological hazards.

City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) head Ivan Cortez told reporters during the one-hour session break at the city council Tuesday that DPWH is “partly to blame” for not coordinating with the city government when they started the road widening project in May this year.

Cortez said all developments have been put on hold around Shrine Hills, as his office no longer issues locational clearances to individuals applying for building permits because “it is highly susceptible to landslide and erosion”.

Thea Shaira Mae Peguit, geologist II at the DPWH 11, pointed to the existing developments uphill, including a building owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and a waterway that added weight on the already weakened ground that was said to be part of an “old landslide debris”.

“Aside from the excavation that the department has undertaken, I believe the primary reason for landslide is because of the developments which have occurred outside our project above our slope,” she said.

Golle said she hopes local and national government agencies will coordinate well on the viable actions that would address the issue on the Shrine Hills.

She said the families displaced due to the forced evacuation implemented by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council should be provided with a proper relocation site.

Under the 2013 Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, the Shrine Hills has been classified as an “Urban Ecological Enhancement Sub-zone, or an area “intended for massive greening program for ecological enhancement in major urban zones as precautionary and pro-active approach to climate change adaptation and part of risk reduction management against flooding, landslide and inundation as the edges and slopes of the ridge or hill are found to be highly susceptible to landslide”.

But Golle said the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were drafted only this year and have yet to get the city council’s approval.

‘No coordination’

Cortez claimed the DPWH did not coordinate with the CPDO when they implemented the road expansion, which he said the agency normally does for other road projects.

He said the DPWH previously agreed with the city government that they would inform it of new projects “simply because this will affect the entire city every time they have project” as a re-routing scheme for vehicles will have to be implemented.

In his letter addressed to DPWH assistant regional director Zenaida T. Tan dated August 10, Cortez said the scraping of the Shrine Hills may pose danger like landslide due to loosening of soil during long periods of rainfall.

He said the local government wanted to protect the entire Shrine Hills from intrusive development through Zoning Ordinance 2013.

He said the ordinance provides for a moratorium on the issuance of development permits until the formulation of its IRR.

Cortez said the DPWH 11 responded by saying it will put in place slope protection measures but did not happen until the ground cracks occurred last week of September and a landslide on October 5.

Free ride

President Rodrigo R. Duterte deployed 10 buses starting 6 a.m. on Tuesday to provide free transport to commuters departing from Toril and Calinan areas and back.

From 6-8 a.m., five buses will bring passengers downtown from Toril District Hall, and the other five buses will bring commuters downtown from Gaisano Mall Calinan.

From 4-7 p.m., five buses will bring passengers from the Davao City Hall back to Toril area, while the other five buses will bring passengers to Calinan. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)