DENR urges relocation of Itogon folk out of danger zones


ITOGON, Benguet — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Cordillera urges Benguet officials to relocate small scale mining communities that fall within the identified “critical zone” in the geohazard map of Itogon town.

The geohazard map of Itogon town in Benguet province is largely colored brown and red with small patches of green and still smaller patches of yellow. Brown signifies critical areas, red are areas highly susceptible to landslides, green moderately susceptible and yellow means low susceptibility.

Director Ralph Pablo, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Cordillera showed this map during the post-retrieval conference on Oct. 2, which is the result of the recent geohazard survey conducted following the series of fatal landslides that claimed 89 lives in Itogon in September. He said they still have to determine the exact measurement in hectarage of the land areas within the brown, red, green and yellow patches.

“If possible those living within critical areas should be relocated immediately,” Pablo said.

Mayor Victorio Palangdan of Itogon ordered some 500 hundred families living and operating pocket mines in 10 sitios in Barangays Ucab, Loacan, Gumatdang and Ampucao to leave because they are endangered. The geohazard map shows Barangays Ucab, Loacan, Ampucao, Poblacion and Gumatdang are among those that fall with in the “critical danger zone”.
Palangdan said some 500 families, including pocket miners living in the ten sitios have now evacuated, some to the Benguet sports complex in Wangal, La Trinidad, Benguet and others to their relatives.

Official casualty count of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) showed that the massive slide in sitio First Gate, Barangay Ucab claimed 65 lives, 16 died at the Loacan slide, two in Ampucao and four in Poblacion.

Palangdan said they still have to find a safe relocation site for the displaced communities.
Pablo also identified three public schools that are in danger that include the Manganese Elementary School and Ampucao National High School in Ampucao village and Loacan National High School in Loacan. He said there are active landslides and cracks on the gound threatening these schools.

Pablo explained that active landslide areas can be triggered if the rainfall reaches or exceeds 100mm.

Pag-asa data showed that the rains that Ompong brought rainfall that measured 785.8mm in 48 hours.

Engineering interventions

Director Faye Apil of the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Cordillera said that it is best for those within the areas highly succeptible to landlides to relocate. If they have nowhere else to go, she said that there are mitigating measures that must be done to increase their safety.

She said interventions include slope protection and drainage systems among others.

The MGB-CAR chief said those concerned must consult geotechnical engineers to identify the most appropriate engineering interventions. She said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local engineering offices are supposed to have geotechnical engineers.

“What we have in MGB are geologists and mining engineers,” she said.

Apil said geologists study the structure of the soil, rocks and slopes which serve as additional references for geotechnical engineers. Geotehcnical engineers, she said, study the load bearing capacity of the soil and proper structural design among others.#


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