Provincial gov’t to meet with miners

Posted on April 27, 2011

DAVAO CITY -- The provincial government of Compostela Valley will meet with miners on efforts to prevent another tragedy in small-scale mining areas, an official said yesterday.

Governor Arturo T. Uy said the meetings will be held in coordination with other agencies implementing a no-habitation zone in the area in Kingking village, in Pantukan town where a landslide occurred on Friday.

The meetings will address the plan of the provincial government to expand the implementation of the no-habitation zones in other landslide-prone areas, Mr. Uy said.

This developed as retrieval operations in the disaster site was halted as bad weather prevented teams to search for 15 remaining miners.

A team member, who said he was not authorized to speak on the operations, told BusinessWorld that his team has been ordered to stop its work yesterday morning.

"Visibility is very poor," he said in a text message as nine bodies were retrieved from the mud.

Mr. Uy said miners and their families have left their shanties, some of them still covered by mud after the landslides.

Based on the forecast of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration, the Davao Region will experience cloudy skies with rain showers until weekend.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is how to regulate small-scale mining activities initially in Pantukan.

Leo L. Jasareno, acting director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, earlier proposed that the minahang bayan (mining village) concept be adopted to ensure that small-scale miners will not be displaced. An area is designated as minahang bayan once it has established a cooperative that oversees mining operations.

Mr. Jasareno said the situation must be addressed considering "small-scale mining in the Philippines is a social issue."

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking at a wider danger zone area, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been entrusted to look after the survivors.

"The local government will be taking care of the relocation efforts for the victims. For a more long-term assistance, the DSWD will assess if those who have been affected by the landslide are eligible for the self-employment assistance program of the department," said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a Palace briefing yesterday.

Mr. Lacierda noted that the DSWD has already distributed an emergency shelter assistance worth P5,000 per family, as well as food packs.

Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus P. Paje, for his part, said that the priority is to reduce casualty and focus on retrieval operations.

"We conducted a rapid geo-hazard assessment and the crack is much larger, it’s not just 74 meters or one-third of the area, but two-thirds of the area as of yesterday. The fissure is much longer... originally only 30 shanties were affected, now it’s more than 100," said Mr. Paje in a separate phone interview. -- C. Q. Francisco and J. P. D. Poblete