400 households at risk face forced evacuation

Justin K. Vestil and Cherry Ann Lim
·4 min read

AS CRACKS in the ground near the site of a landslide within the Toledo copper mines widened on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, the Toledo City Government decided to conduct forced evacuation of around 400 households living within a 500-meter radius.

John Roseller Layan, Toledo City public information officer, said Mayor Marjorie Perales ordered the forced evacuation to be conducted on Thursday, Dec. 24, to avert another disaster.

“Mayor Perales has ordered the evacuation as she fears that if the cracks would continue to expand, it might pose another disaster for residents living within the 500-meter radius of the landslide site. We don’t want that to happen, especially that these residents are eager to celebrate Christmas Day,” Layan said.

Search and rescue operations for six missing mine workers of Carmen Copper Corp. (CCC) were again halted Wednesday after a company geologist noticed that one-foot cracks found near the landslide site on the slopes of Carmen Pit widened to about 20 feet in just 30 minutes, from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Layan said Perales, who inspected the site Wednesday, decided to convene the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (LDRRMC) and confer with CCC officials to determine an immediate course of action, especially for those living near the landslide site.

Four workers had died after a part of Carmen Pit’s slopes collapsed on Monday afternoon, Dec. 21. Six remained missing as of Wednesday.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau Central Visayas (MGB 7) Director Armando Malicse told SunStar Cebu that he will send some personnel to verify the cracks.

He said, however, that he saw no problem with the mayor’s order to implement forced evacuation.

“We see no problem since this is also considered preemptive evacuation. She is also concerned for her constituents,” Malicse said.

He also said they have yet to determine how the landslide occurred.

Casualties

Meanwhile, CCC has released the names of the four workers who died and the six who are still missing due to the landslide.

In a spot report released by the Toledo Police Station based on information provided by CCC, the fatalities were identified as Junil S. Lagola, Ernesto G. Caspe, Juan M. Tapang and Dionisio Labang.

All were residents of Toledo City, except for Labang who resided in Naga City.

Lagola, 44, was a mine open pit leadman and a resident of Brgy. Don Andres Soriano, Toledo City.

Caspe, 54, was a mine open pit checker and resident of Dasmamac, Lutopan.

Tapang, 44, was a heavy equipment operator and resident of Don Andres Soriano Village.

Labang was a backhoe operator from Anseca Contractor and resident of Brgy. Uling, City of Naga.

They were brought to the CCC hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

The missing persons, all residents of Toledo City, are Jose B. Carpentero, 31, a heavy equipment operator and resident of Brgy. Biga; Jonwel S. Herediano, 33, pump operator from Brgy. Don Andres Soriano; Simeon B. Laconas, 33, leadman from Brgy. Biga; John Paul L. Resuelo, 27, heavy equipment operator from Brgy. Biga; Renante F. Sepada, 35, pump operator from Brgy. Bagakay; and Alfred C. Tautho, 33, welder from Brgy. Mainggit.

The Toledo City Government has assured their families of assistance.

Warning

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque extended his condolences to the families of the casualties even as he reiterated the warning of President Rodrigo Duterte against open pit mining.

He said the President has long wanted to prohibit open pit mining. However, he also has to consider the thousands of families who stand to lose their livelihood.

“The President has long been studying the ban for open pit mining. He knows that the revenue from open pit mining is very important, but he also takes into consideration its damage on the lives of people and the environment. Even if there were efforts to balance it, from the start, the President stood pat that it is time to study its banning,” he said.

“We are calling out to the firms that while open pit mining is still not prohibited, we urge mining companies to be responsible and take care of the welfare and the lives of their workers,” he said.

CCC, a subsidiary of Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp., has suspended operations at the Carmen Pit, its only active open pit mine, to ensure the safety of its employees and contractors. (ANV / JOB)