By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is investigating the possible neglect of duty on the part of local officials and Benguet Corporation that caused the death of dozens of people in a landslide in Itogon, Benguet.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the Itogon mining site where the landslide occurred is a landslide-prone area.
“It was not during the process of mining that the accident occurred but during a typhoon. Unfortunately, before the landslide occurred, they (people) hid inside a bunkhouse because they thought it was a safe place to hide,” Cimatu said.
DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda added that with or without mining activities, landslide will occur in the area.
“It just so happened that the miners are living on the site and they became the victims of the landslide. We cannot say that the deaths of the miners were not caused by mining because they were in that area because of mining,” he added.
“The local government was also properly informed of the geohazard situation of the said area. As far as DENR is concerned, we have no shortcoming but the geohazard warnings that we have issued a long time ago were not shared to the barangay and local officials,” he also said.
Cimatu said that small-scale mining should be regulated and supervised by the local government unit but the ones that violated the authority were doing packet mining and were not regulated.
The DENR chief noted that only about 500 miners were given special authority to conduct mining in Benguet province, while another 1,000 more were not authorized to operate, which include those in the Itogon site.
“One reason why I am sending a team from MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) is to determine the culpability of local officials and Benguet Corp. This is a geohazard zone. During the typhoon they (people) were supposed to get out of the area,” he pointed out.
“We are not against small-scale mining, but it should be done properly and regulated,” he said.