Rescuers search for a miracle

Published September 23, 2018, 2:16 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Aaron Recuenco, Genalyn Kabiling, and Raymund Antonio
More bodies were retrieved from the landslide area of a quarry site in Naga City, southern Cebu last weekend, raising the death toll to 45 as of Sunday afternoon as a fresh set of rescue workers arrive to dig up soil and mud in the hopes of finding “miracle survivors.”

A landslide occurred in Tinaan, Naga City, Cebu this morning, Sept. 20, 2018. Search and rescue teams are in the area to look for victims. (Photo by Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)
A landslide occurred in Tinaan, Naga City, Cebu last Sept. 20, 2018. Search and rescue teams are in the area to look for victims. (Photo by Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)

Chief Inspector Roderick Gonzales, acting chief of police of Naga City, said hundreds of policemen and other augmentation personnel from various government agencies have already arrived both to help in the search and rescue (SAR) operations as well as in assisting the affected victims.

Gonzales said the search for survivors among the 40 missing in houses buried in the landslide remains the primary goal.

Based on the latest data, the number of bodies recovered so far from the landslide site in Barangay Tina-an and Barangay Naalad is 45 with nine people reported injured.

“Some of the cadavers recovered were children. The search and rescue operations continue,” said Gonzales.

Based on the data of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), a total of 57 people were reported missing as of Saturday when the death toll is at 29.

Gonzales said the victims are residents of at least 20 houses that were buried in Barangay Tina-an and more than four more houses at the portion of Barangay Naalad.

So far, seven of the bodies remained unidentified.

The fatalities were identified as Althea Siton, 4; Olivia Meneses Moral, 63; Annabel Lobiano, 40; Romeo Jabonilia, 40; Francisco Yapac, 60; Michael Versales, 16; Mark Laurence Campanilla, 3; Bianca Versales, 19; Raul Gepuit, 47; Laura Capoy, 52; two baby girls from the Campanilla family; Nina Siton, 8; Crystal Jean Siton; Joseph Tolentino, 47; Juanito Sito; Emeliana Siton, 85; Jocelyn Siton; Aracelle Lobiano, 49; Lance Noah Lobiano, 7; Jemuel Campanilla, 12; Jazwel Campanilla, 8; Lemuel Campanilla, 33; Jenessa Campanilla, 32; Marcelina Campanilla, 52; Franz Laurence Campanilla, 10; Zeny Campanilla, 24; Lauro Campanilla, 55; Lexter Campanilla; Lauren “Oyen” Capoy; Leo Campanilla; Susan Aguanta; and Felipa Merly Baclaan, 54.

The massive landslides occurred at around 6 a.m. on September 20. The landslide sites were near the quarrying site of a cement factory operating in the province.

Authorities said heavy downpour brought by typhoon ‘Ompong’ had triggered the landslide.

Gonzales said part of the mountain actually eroded and completely covered the houses located at its foot.

The Cebu landslide occurred while authorities were still accounting for more than 40 miners trapped in a mining bunkhouse in Barangay Ucab in Itogon, Benguet.

At least 100 people died in Luzon as a result of the ‘Ompong’ onslaught, mostly due to landslides in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Repeal of mining law
It is up to Congress whether or not to repeal the law governing mining operations in the country, President Duterte declared last Friday in the wake of the recent deadly landslides in Cebu and Benguet.

The President acknowledged that his “great dream” was to close mining in ”most parts of the country” but his hands were tied given the existing law that allows these companies to operate.

“There is a law which allows mining and it is an act of Congress which I cannot overrule. I can only implement the measures therein the law,” Duterte said during a health forum in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu last Friday.

“But to have the law or not, that’s not for the Executive department, it belongs to the legislators,” he added.
Republic Act No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 regulates mineral resource development in the country. It was signed during the Arroyo administration.

In his visit to Cebu, the President expressed anew his intention to shut down mining one day to avoid further death and destruction in surrounding communities. He argued that the mining revenues were insufficient to cover the damage caused by the industry.

“I have been saying right at the start that one day and I hope to realize it, I pray to God that I’ll still be there by that time, I’ll give them maybe — I’ve been warning that I will eventually close mining operations in most parts of the country,” he said.

“It’s because the P70 billion that we earn by way of tax is not enough to compensate for all the suffering and agony that we have to experience every time there’s a calamity such as a typhoon,” he said.

Duterte admitted that his economic team was not keen on his proposed closure of mining operations due to the foregone revenues.

“Now, if I impose stringent measures, well, they would say that — your — my advisor would say, ‘Go easy on this because it’s a 70-billion industry a year in taxes,’“ he said. ”So you begin now to make a sort of a mental exercise of how much would you lose in terms of totality of the peso as against the earnings by way of taxes from mining companies,” he added.

But the President pointed out the environmental damage caused by mining operations, particularly open-pit mines, such as soil erosion and pollution of rivers.

“There are so many holes there just beside the mountain, at the settlement of workers, the illegal mining activity. So when it rains — it rains like cats and dogs, the tunnel collapses, the mountain breaks free, and you have this disaster,” he said.

Appeal for help
Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo on Sunday called on Filipinos to help families displaced by massive landslides in Itogon, Benguet and Naga Ciy, Cebu.

“Sa mga kababayan nating mapalad kasi hindi dumaan sa ganyang trahedya, sana makatulong. Makatulong sa kahit pag-adopt ng isang pamilya at matulungan nila makatawid,” she said during her weekly radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni.” (To our countrymen who were spared from the tragedy, I hope they can help by way of adopting a family.)

Robredo issued the appeal as her office mobilized a disaster relief team to the mining town of Itogon to bring help to those affected by the landslide which was triggered by Typhoon “Ompong.”

The team will then proceed to Naga City to extend relief support also to the households directly affected by the landslide.

The OVP wants a long-term approach in addressing calamities that hit the two areas like the construction of transition shelters for families displaced by Marawi siege.

Robredo said the tragic landslides should serve as a warning to Filipinos to err on the side of caution to prevent the loss of lives.