5,000 people threatened by Arayat landslides refuse to leave homes
PAMPANGA, Philippines – Some 5,000 people living at the foot of Mount Arayat in San Juan Baño village in Arayat town in this province refuse to leave their homes despite the tagging of their area as an imminent danger zone due to the constant threat of landslides.
The reason? About 80% of them earn their living by planting vegetables and fruits on the mountain, and the proposed relocation site is “too far away.”
“Sinasabihan na namin sila na maghanda-handa nang mag-evacuate dahil pinaplano na ito ng provincial at municipal government. Pero aaminin ko po na kami sa barangay council ay nahihirapan na kumbinsihin sila na lumipat dahil nasa bundok ang kabuhayan nila at nalalayuan sila sa paglilipatan sa kanila sa Barangay Telapayong,” Froilan Soriano, village chief of San Juan Baño, told Rappler on Monday, October 1.
(We've been telling them to prepare for an evacuation as it is being planned by the provincial and municipal government. I admit we at the barangay council are having difficulty convincing them to leave because their livelihood is in the mountains, and they find the relocation area in Barangay Telapayong too far away.)
He said the provincial government-owned relocation site in Telapayong village is around 10 kilometers from San Juan Baño.
Thousands of bunkhouses are currently being constructed in the area and are set to be completed by the end of the year, according to the statement of the provincial government.
Soriano said the some 5,000 people threatened by landslide live in Purok 6 and Purok 7 of his village.
“Namumundok po sila araw-araw at nagtatanim ng mga gulay gaya ng kamatis, patola, sitaw at mga prutas tulad ng atis at iba pa. Walumpung porsiyento po sa mga ka-barangay ko sa Purok 6 at 7 ay ganito ang kabuhayan,” the village chief said.
(They work on the mountains, planting vegetables like tomatoes, patola (luffa), legumes, and fruits like the atis and others. Eighty percent of my fellows in the barangay in Purok 6 and 7 have the same livelihood.)
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Luzon recently proposed the declaration of Purok 6 and 7 in San Juan Baño village under a state of imminent danger. The bureau explained heavy rains could cause rocks to roll down from the mountain, resulting in a repeat of the destructive landslide that occurred during the onslaught of Tropical Storm Ondoy on September 26, 2009.
That landslide killed a dozen people in Purok 6. Mud and large rocks cascaded down through the Sapang Mayagas Creek
In 2009, Gov. Lilia Pineda suggested the construction of bunkhouses in the village for the affected families but the MGB did not approve her proposal, as the area was still within the danger zone.
Threat is nothing new
Since the 2009 landslide, the MGB Region 3 has been recommending for Purok 6 and 7 to be declared as permanent danger zones.
The bureau said loosened rocks and sediment are deposited along the creeks of the mountain and could be loosened further by downpours.
At the onset of the rainy season every year, the municipal government of Arayat had been placing San Juan Baño under a state of heightened alert due to possible landslide and advising residents to temporarily transfer to safer locations and evacuation centers.
Senior Superintendent Nicolas Salvador, acting Pampanga provincial police director, said they have been meeting with local officials here to discuss the possible forced evacuation of landslide threatened residents in case the situation becomes critical.
Supt. Dale Soliba, Arayat municipal police chief, said they were ready to act on the possible evacuation of Purok 6 and 7 residents.
“As of now, there is no order for forced evacuation yet. But we are prepared to do our duty to ensure the safety of the people there when the time comes,” he told Rappler. – Rappler.com
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