NGO seeks additional assistance for families affected by landslide

·4 min read

THE Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Cebu has called upon the Toledo City Government in southwestern Cebu to compel the Carmen Copper Corp. (CCC) to provide “enough” support to the families of Barangay Biga who have been evacuated after a deadly landslide occurred in a mining pit owned by the CCC in the barangay.

Teodorico Navea, PMCJ Cebu chapter convenor, said some evacuees complained about the “deplorable” state of the evacuation sites in Sitios Hag-it and Manokan.

“When we were there (on Dec. 31, 2020), many were insinuating that they might return to their homes because they could not sustain their lives there,” he said.

In response to the evacuees’ claim, John Roseller Layan, public information officer of the Toledo City Government, said maybe they were still in the process of delivering assistance, adding that they encountered resistance from some residents.

The landslide on Dec. 21 that killed four CCC workers and left six others missing prompted the Toledo City Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to meet with personnel of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7.

During the meeting, the MGB 7 recommend the immediate preemptive evacuation of families living in danger zone, or within the 600-meter radius from the mine tailing pipeline.

On Dec. 25, Mayor Marjorie Perales advised Biga Barangay Captain Pedro Sepada Jr. to implement the preemptive evacuation.

Navea said the group was with lawyers connected with the Cebu Action Group and the Philippine Earth Justice Center when they visited the evacuation sites.

He said they wanted to check on the families of the missing six miners and to have updates on the families of the four casualties.

He said only a few tents were set up in the evacuation sites in Sitios Hag-it and Manokan.

The site in Sitio Manokan, which is a former poultry farm, houses 116 families, or more than 400 individuals, he said.

It is “more than worse” than the site in Sitio Hag-it, which accommodates 134 households, or around 500 individuals, Navea added.

“This number of people and only a few tents were being set up and then the poultry farm which they occupied in Sitio Manokan. It’s really inhuman in terms of how the people were treated.. using the tarima and trapal,” Navea told SunStar Cebu.

He said evacuees also claimed that they were only visited by a government doctor once, but even during that time, no checkup happened.

After the group’s dialogue with the evacuees, he said, they also met with barangay officials.

Sepada, he said, told them that allegedly all the movements of the corporation are not being coordinated with the barangay.

He said the group statement is also an indirect appeal to the public to help the affected residents of Barangay Biga in the spirit of solidarity.

Layan said they cannot be at “full blast” in helping affected residents because there are some individuals who “interfere” with the City’s procedures.

“We’ve been doing our best to help them, but they don’t seem to appreciate it. We’ve tried to explain to the affected families that we cannot provide in evacuation centers the same comfort they enjoyed in their own homes,” he said in Cebuano.

He said the CCC, like the local government, has also encountered “blockage” of help supposedly intended for the evacuees, although he did not elaborate.

Layan said a 10-man team from MGB 7 is expected to conduct an independent survey in the affected area by Jan. 6 to determine if it is still habitable.

He said the search and retrieval operations of the City and the rescue personnel of the CCC are still ongoing for the six missing persons.

He said a dewatering process on ground zero was started three days ago.

“Maybe the missing persons are in the bottom of the mining pit,” Layan said in Cebuano.

However, the process may take some time, he said.

Meanwhile, MGB 7 Director Armando Malicse Jr., in a text message to SunStar Cebu said they still do not have final findings on what caused the Dec. 21 landslide.

The PMCJ is a national coalition of various nongovernment organizations which endeavor on programs against the further degradation of the environment and of the climate. The group, among their other advocacies, opposes destructive activities of mining companies in the country. (WBS)