Typhoon Nina has left behind it a string of disasters that have only waited for opportunities like Nina for it to happen.
Sixteen miners buried alive and some eighty houses pulled down the mountain in one giant landslide. That is only what has reached the media reportage and because the cost and the number of victims is rather large.
It happened to the town of Itogon, Benguet that has a history of being mined-out for more than a hundred years, considering that it was the mining area of our Igorot ancestors before the American prospectors in 1903 took it away and claimed it as belonging to a company – the predecessor of the present Benguet Corporation.
In the earlier laws covering the mining industry there was a provision that obligated the mining company to rehabilitate the area that has been mined-out and return it to its former natural form before leaving it. In recent history, the sinking of Colalo in the 75-year old Lepanto mines in Mankayan; the destruction of the Kennon road gorge that housed the former Black Mountain mines and the Benguet Exploration are proof that the mining companies do not do this.
In the case of the Benguet Exploration, the company practically just ran-away in the night. Black Mountain was taken over and abandoned when the dictator Marcos was driven out. Now the several mine camps closed in the Itogon area. Especially during natural storms and typhoon, all of them continue to cause havoc in their area of location long after they have closed down.
Government agencies, environmentalists, geologists and so-called experts who have accepted the responsibility to mitigate, monitor and keep the people safe from and prepared for disasters like that in Itogon did not do their jobs. They have gone so low as being sorry mouthpieces covering up the culprit and those liable for the abandonment and gross neglect of disastrous areas like the old mine shafts the abandoned open pit and tunnels.
These mining companies just took the gold and left with the blessing and thanks of a government that did not care to assure the safety and security of the remaining workers, the endangered and disturbed communities, at the very least.
Itogon even under the leadership of a very capable mayor is helpless in such massive disasters triggered by nature like storms, earthquakes or maybe even just a gust of wind. While the Itogon people have to organize themselves on their natural and innate drive to help each other rebuild their lives they must not forget who and must hold those responsible for the destruction of the foundations of their mountain home.
In the light of the failing economy under the disastrous management of national government, the people of Itogon in their organized strength with their local government are their primary hope to immediate relief and to put in effect the continued rehabilitation of their territory but should not let go those who have to pay, even if it takes another hundred years.#