June 21, 2009 in Cordillera
By LYN V. RAMO
MANKAYAN, Benguet – “People’s lives are in danger. They should vacate the place immediately,” Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan told the officials here, referring to the remaining houses near the Aurora sinkhole in Barangay Poblacion here.
Fongwan, in a meeting with teachers, community leaders and town officials here Wednesday, advised Mankayan people to be on alert amid the continuing ground movement that can be aggravated by continuous downpour.
Basing on a report by the Mines and Geo-science Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) and his own ocular inspection, Fongwan said the town mayor should order the evacuation of all people living near the subsidence area where five houses along Aurora St. barangay Poblacion were taken by a landslide last June 5.
The June 11 MGB report described the June 5 incident as a major landslide measuring about 44.4 meters wide and some 20 meters deep, which caused the temporary damming of Casibugan Creek below the school site.
Residents, however said, the ground movement was a subsidence, not a landslide because it “just sat there.” A very huge portion went down as if a billiard ball was pushed to the hole, as a local school official described it.
“No landslide koma ket adda ti napanan ti daga. Nakusbo met laeng,” (If it is a landslide, the earth mass could have gone below to the other side. The place just collapsed) said Odelon Wallang, the vice-chair of the Security union of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC).
MGB recommended that water runoff be diverted from the slide area; the tension cracks “sealed” even with clay to prevent water seepage; buildings be demolished; rerouting of the road to LCMC and the dammed water carefully removed to prevent flashfloods.
24-hour alert on
Fongwan told school and town officials to take extra precaution in diverting the run-off water to avoid it going to the “wrong place like an uderground tunnel, which might even aggravate the subsidence.” He recommended piping the water into a creek below.
He also discouraged the proposed “benching” until the ground has fairly stabilized. Benching at the moment may even put resources and manpower to waste, he said.
The octagon-shaped school canteen and a portion of the athletic oval also collapsed last Monday, with more cracks evident on the ground just a few meters from the outdoor stage, prompting school and town officials to fence off the subsidence area and organize a 24-hour watch.
“We are closely monitoring the subsidence area. When it rains incessantly, classes would be suspended automatically,” said MNHS Principal Pablo Khayog Jr.
Councilor William Mendoza said the council passed five resolutions in its emergency session Monday. One of these is the request for an independent investigation by groups other than the mining company and the government.
Wallang and other miners caught by Nordis along Aurora Street all point to the alleged underground copper mine tunnels Bonanza 1030 to 1070 reportedly abandoned when the company shifted to gold operations in the late 1980′s.
“Old miners tell us there are mine tunnels underneath,” one miner, said.
Youth speak up
MNHS students keep going to school despite fear of another collapse. One of them, Novie Calapiao, 16, a volleyball athlete to the regional athletic meet, laments that the oval will no longer be there. “ We will have no place for practice,” she said.
Jane Fagyan, also 16, said she could not give up MNHS to the sinkhole.
An MNHS alumnus, Chester Tuazon, blamed the very fast environmental deterioration of Mankayan; tracing the disasters in Sapid, Poblacion, Colalo and Poblacion, to the more than six-decade mining operations by LCMC.
“Lepanto claims to be a model of responsible mining, but the devastation it has caused in Mankayan belies such claim,” Tuazon of the local Anakbayan chapter said. The company’s operations caused the sinking of many areas and the siltation of the Abra River from its tailings ponds upstream of the river, Tuazon observed.
Tuazon said Anakbayan calls on local and national government officials and environmental advocates to condemn this environmental destruction.
“Anya ngay ti papanan ti agtutubo nu saan mi nga irupir a protektaran ti aglawlaw?” (Where will the youth go if we do not assert the protection of the environment?) Tuazon asked.# nordis.net