Pantukan landslide, increasing disasters result of government neglect

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Miners dig through mud and debris near the opening of a tunnel buried by Friday dawn’s landslide in Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking, Pantukan town, Compostela Valley Province.As of 7:30 pm Saturday, April 23, three persons have been confirmed dead, 13 rescued and 21 still missing. Photo courtesy MindaNews.com
Miners dig through mud and debris near the opening of a tunnel buried by Friday dawn’s landslide in Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking, Pantukan town, Compostela Valley Province.As of 7:30 pm Saturday, April 23, three persons have been confirmed dead, 13 rescued and 21 still missing. Photo courtesy MindaNews.com

MANILA, Philippines – The recent landslide in the small-scale mining (SSM) area of Pantukan, Compostela Valley province resulted in the death of 66 individuals and more than 100 missing. Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) pointed out that a similar tragedy struck the same area in April 22, which left 14 dead, 14 injured and 8 missing.

“It seems the government failed again to prevent tragedies particularly in disaster prone areas like Pantukan and the recently hit Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete and Iligan cities in spite of many experiences and scientific studies that forecast these possible disasters. Reports show that both tragic incidents were triggered by heavy rainfall and earthquakes,” said Mr. Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Kalikasan PNE pointed out that the government’s reaction to the Pantukan landslide incident last year was to blame small-scale miners for the tragedym claiming that unregulated SSM activities caused the environmental degradation and aggravated the topographical vulnerability of the area. GPH proposed the forced relocation of mining communities out of Pantukan.

Last year the reaction of the government to the landslide incident in Pantukan was to blame the small scale miners and their families for the tragedy, claiming that the unregulated SSM have caused the environmental degradation and aggravated the topographical vulnerability in the area. The proposed solution of the government is to stop SSM in the area and forcefully relocate the small scale mining communities out of Tampakan.

“The Aquino administration’s broken-record strategy of blaming small-scale miners has failed to convince them to relocate from Pantukan, despite their leading a very dangerous and hazardous job. They have no choice as the government has given them neither resettlement areas nor livelihood alternatives. Aquino has literally made small scale mining communities stuck between a rock and a hard place,” lamented Bautista.

Meanwhile, the Kalikasan Partylist cited the analysis of activist scientist group AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) on the same incident, stating that mining, regardless of scale, contributes to the structural instability of land, making it prone to landslides especially when triggered by other natural hazards, such as earthquakes or heavy rainfall, or both as in the recent event.

“Pres. Aquino not only failed to address the plight of small-scale miners, but has also allowed large-scale mining operations in the area. In the first place, it is clear is that the Aquino administration, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and local government units failed to institutionalize proactive disaster response measures such as landslide warning systems and conduct preemptive evacuations in lieu of impending rains in Pantukan and other disaster prone-areas,” said Mr. Leon Dulce, convenor of Kalikasan Partylist.

“The Aquino government ironically waxes poetic in criticizing small people but allows the real culprits of these disasters like large-scale miners, commercial loggers, and corrupt government officials to continue their destruction and plunder of our environment and natural resources,” added Dulce.

Pantukan for instance is host to the Russel Mines and Minerals, a US-based mining company conducting exploration activities for open-pit mining. Mt. Diwalwal has long been targeted for the takeover of large-scale and foreign-funded corporations. Xstrata, one of the three biggest mining corporations in the country aims to massively operate open pit mining in four provinces in Mindanao. In Davao City, Talaingod and Bukidnon, four mining permits threaten the sustainability of the Pantaron Mountain ranges. These are beside the fact that legal commercial logging continues to rape the remaining forests in Mindanao.

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