Itogon mayor to Benguet Corp: Help us look for relocation, burial sites

MANILA, Philippines – After saying that Benguet Corporation is at fault for allowing miners to live near a landslide-prone area, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan on Thursday, September 20 said it's time to set aside differences and focus instead on helping landslide victims.

"Wala na pong sisihan. Nakikiusap po ako sa Benguet Corporation na dapat boluntaryo na maghanap sila ng relocation site ng mga taong ito. At ang importante po, kung mahahanapan 'yung mga unidentified na walang make-claim na bodies, they should also provide a temporary burial area," Palangdan said in a press conference.

(Enough of finger-pointing. I'm pleading with Benguet Corporation to voluntarily look for a relocation site for the evacuees. And the important thing is, they should also provide a temporary burial area for unidentified and unclaimed bodies.)

The mining town of Itogon is ground zero of a massive landslide triggered by Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut). The landslides in Itogon killed at least 54 people and left 47 others missing.

Palangdan said that according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, both the First Gate (Zone 070) and Luneta communities should not be residential areas.

But he also relayed the concerns of evacuees currently staying at Pacalso Elementary School in Barangay Tuding, Itogon.

AFTER LANDSLIDE. Relief operations are ongoing at Pacalso Elementary School. Screenshot from Rappler

AFTER LANDSLIDE. Relief operations are ongoing at Pacalso Elementary School.

Screenshot from Rappler

According to the mayor, evacuees are hoping they will be allowed to go back home while there's no typhoon. They also promised "they will be ready to move out from the area" in case of a typhoon.

Palangdan also explained that evacuees must leave Pacalso Elementary School by Sunday noon, September 23, because the school will be used for classes come Monday, September 24.

He said out of the 418 evacuees sheltered in the school, only 18 have signified intent to go back to Ifugao.

"Ang problema, saan natin sila dadalhin? May nagdo-donate ng tents na puwedeng temporary shelter nila, pero ang problema wala tayong lupa na paglalagyan," he said.

(The problem is, where will we bring them? Someone will donate tents that can be their temporary shelter, but the problem is we don't have land where we can put those up.)

According to Palangdan, Benguet Corporation is still maintaining ownership over the abandoned mining areas so they are in a position to provide the land "kung talagang magbibigay sila (if they're willing to provide)."

"Kung may nakikinig na taga-Benguet, pumunta na kayo dito at we will organize, we can have a meeting for a solution of this problem. 'Wag tayo mag-away; we are here to solve this present problem," he reiterated.

(So if anyone out there from Benguet Corporation is listening, please come here and we will organize, we can have a meeting for a solution of this problem. Let's not fight; we are here to solve this present problem.) – Rappler.com

Read more stories from Rappler's coverage of the Itogon landslide: