CITY OF NAGA, Cebu — Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday ordered the immediate relief of four top officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7 (Central Visayas) following the massive landslide here.
“On orders of the President (Rodrigo Duterte), I’m here to see for myself the situation and determine what my department must do to avert another incident, at the same time to find out what are the lapses of the DENR personnel in Central Visayas,” Cimatu said while waiting for Duterte’s arrival here to comfort the victims.
He said he has created an investigation team to carry out the task.
“I’m also relieving the top leadership of MGB in Region 7 while an investigation is being conducted. I will be sending a team from Manila to conduct a thorough and independent investigation,” he added.
Relieved were MGB-7 Director Loreto Alburo, chief finance and administrative officer Gerry Mahusay, chief geologist Al Emil Berador, and supervising geologist Dennis Aleta.
On Aug. 29, a day after some cracks were noticed at the landslide site in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against Apo Land and Quarry Corp. (ALQC) to stop operations, and to continuously monitor Sitio Tagaytay and its neighboring areas, including ground zero in Sitio Sindulan.
Six days later, the city government received a letter from MGB-7 Director Alburo stating that the cracks and fissures on the subject site is a natural phenomenon and not related to the mining operation of ALQC.
On the basis of the clearance issued by MGB-7, Chiong lifted the CDO on Sept. 6 on the condition that ALQC would observe the highest standard of safety in its quarry activities and continue monitoring the ground fissures.
Chiong said she accepts responsibility for what happened two weeks after the lifting of the CDO and she’s not pointing an accusing finger at anybody, but denied the MGB-7 had warned them that Sitio Sindulan was landslide-prone.
“We were not informed that Sindulan was landslide-prone, contrary to MGB’s claim. But I’m not pointing a finger (at anybody). I own the responsibility,” she said.
Upon orders of the President, Cimatu also ordered a reassessment of all quarrying operations across the country.
“I’m ordering the suspension for 15 days of all quarrying operations in Regions 1, 3, 4A, 5, 7, 11, 10, and 13 until such time the reassessment of the areas are completed,” Cimatu said, referring to the Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Central Visayas, Davao, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga regions, respectively.
He also ordered the forced evacuation of all people residing within the 1-km. radius of the landslide site.
Cimatu said he has already asked the military and the police to help the local government of Naga in the immediate evacuation of residents in affected areas.
As of 2:45 p.m. Friday, 897 families, consisting of 2,836 individuals, have been displaced because of Thursday’s landslide. The evacuees are now spread throughout five evacuation centers in Naga.
The number of fatalities was placed at 29, with 15 injured and 50 people still missing. Luel Galarpe/PNA-northboundasia.com