Pantukan tunnels ordered closed down

Rappler.com
[UPDATED] At least 30 dead, 45 reported missing

[UPDATED] MANILA, Philippines – All high-risk mining tunnels in Pantukan, Compostela Valley will be closed down within the week, following orders of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and local government units.

This comes on the heels of a landslide Thursday, January 5, in Sitios Diat Uno and Dos in Barangay Napnapan that left at least 30 dead. According to a report from the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, as of 4:30 pm, Saturday, January 7, 16 persons were rescued while 45 others were still reported missing.

Earlier, weather forecasters and disaster management officials warned that more landslides are likely to occur nationwide as heavy rains could persist until August.

Graciano Yumul, supervising undersecretary of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said the country will be in for a “wet summer” because of La Niña which raises temperatures and causes drought in other parts of the planet but brings heavy rains with it.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo gave the go-signal for the closure of the mining tunnels after meeting with local officials and municipal Mayor Celso Sarenas.

Compostela Valley Gov Arthur Uy said owners of mining tunnels were given 90 days to bring down to the mineral processing site in Lower Pantukan their ball mills.

RESCUE. Workers race against time to look for the missing. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Accountabillity

Local officials have been blamed for failing to prevent small-scale mining in the high-risk landslide areas that had already been previously identified.

Malacañang said local officials should be held accountable for failing to keep their constituents away from danger zones.

Quoting Robredo, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they were of the impression that local officials simply allowed residents to continue mining in the area despite the hazards.

Robredo ordered authorities to enforce in all areas declared as danger zones within the mine sites the municipal government’s “no habitation” ordinance. Residents will be relocated to safer areas with assistance from the social welfare department.

Robredo said miners in the area must be evacuated and that the responsibility of seeing to it this is carried out lay with the local government officials. Even the lives of rescue workers are put at risk whenever disasters strike inhabited hazardous areas.

“Geo-hazard mapping is now being provided to all local government units. My understanding…is that some network stations are going to be provided geo-hazard maps, as well as some broadsheets, precisely to share to the public the areas where there are hazardous areas,” Lacierda said.

The weak enforcement of laws in Pantukan, according to Robredo, contributed to the deaths of residents from the landslide.

There are close to a thousand tunnels in the Pantukan area, according to Mayor Sarenas, half of them most likely without permits. Robredo said government officials agreed that all illegal tunnels will be closed down. – Rappler.com