Philippines: Miners lose their lives in typhoon landslidePublished by MAC on 2018-09-24
Source: Business Mirror, Reuters, CNN, Rappler, Guardian (2018-09-24)
Once again there has been a tragic loss of life associated with a weather event and mining in the Philippines. In this case it is Typhoon Mangkhut (called Typhoon Ompong in the Philippines). At last count the death toll of miners trapped in a shelter engulfed by a huge landside in Itogon stood at 69, and is still expected to rise. As the first press release below points out, although these are small-scale miners they are operating in an old - essentially unrehabilitated - minesite controlled by the Philippine mining major Benguet Corporation. There have been calls for Benguet to be investigated, and as it dealt with criticism it has now apparently agreed to look at formalising the miners rather than criminalising them.
Even as rescuers have yet to finish searching for all the bodies of the landslide victims, another landslide occurred, this time, in Cebu burying houses. Cebu province was not directly hit by Mangkhut, but the massive typhoon helped intensify monsoon rains, and some residents were blaming limestone quarries. The Government also temporarily halted all quarrying activities in the Philippines. The latest death toll in Naga is 49.
Following the deadly landslides, President Rodrigo Duterte repeated his call to shut all mines in the country. Much of the small-scale mining that happens is not legalised, although many are attempting to get licenses (including those who died in the recent disaster). It looks like the most immediate effect will be to withdraw licences from small-scale miners in the mountainous Cordillera region. It would seem to be a bizarre course of action given this will affect mainly indigenous, artisanal cooperatives who are attempting to abide by regulations.
Go after mining, quarry firms for landslide deaths, green groups tell govt
By Jonathan L. Mayuga
24 September 2018
ENVIRONMENTAL groups under the Kalikasan-People’s Network for Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) on Sunday called on the government to go after Benguet Corp. and Apo-Cemex Corp. for the killer landslides that killed dozens of people in Itogon, Benguet, and Naga City, Cebu.
Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce also chided President Duterte for what the group described as an attempt to divert the blood on the hands of big mining and quarrying firms to Typhoon Ompong.
The strong typhoon hit Northern Luzon on September 15 and pulled the southwest monsoon into dumping more rains over huge parts of Luzon. As rains soaked the soil in parts of the mountain regions, a landslide occurred in Benguet’s abandoned mine site in Itogon, which small-scale miners had occupied. Benguet Corp. and local officials said the small miners were illegally operating and had neither the firm’s nor the local government units consent.
The second deadly slide, in Naga City in Cebu, happened on Thursday at a quarry site of Apo Cement, prompting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to suspend all quarry operations in Cebu and six other areas.
According to Dulce, an investigation into operations of Benguet Corp. and Apo-Cemex is in order to determine their criminal and administrative liability.
“We cannot accept the usual refrains that ‘small-scale miners are at fault’ or ‘this is a case of force majeure,” Dulce told the BusinessMirror through Messenger.
Dulce said a congressional investigation should review the policy aspects in mining, particularly why the suspension order and its recommendation to immediately expedite the rehabilitation of Benguet Corp.’s mining area went unheeded.
DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu earlier ordered a fact-finding mission to look into the tragic landslides and determine the culpability not only of the mining and quarrying companies, but national and local government
officials, as well.
Cimatu also relieved all DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) officials in connection with the Naga, Cebu incident.
At a press conference on Thursday, Benguet Corp.’s Reynaldo P. Mendoza, senior vice president for Public Affairs, Legal Services and assistant corporate secretary of the company, welcomed the investigation but said the company has no partnership or no subcontracting arrangement with small-scale miners.
In fact, he said, they had repeatedly warned small-scale mining groups against digging gold in the Antamok area, which was shut down since 1997. The mining area was under “care and maintenance” status.
It was only in 2016, however, when the company filed its amended application for Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan after deciding to give up the plan to resume mining “because of the presence of small-scale miners.”
“As far as we are concerned, we welcome any investigation and we believe we are not liable for what happened,” said Mendoza.
Dulce said Benguet Corp. is trying to muddle the issue. “The landslide clearly came from the abandoned Antamok open-pit mine of Benguet Corp. It is revolting that they are still denying the contracting scheme with small-scale mining communities despite registration, which the MGB itself is boasting about as an innovative scheme,” Dulce lamented.
Dulce added that it is also clear that Benguet Corp. and the DENR blocked attempts by small-scale miners to establish a Minahang Bayan in the area, which would have legally allowed small-scale miners to self-regulate. “Their latest offer to donate 80 hectares precisely for this purpose is damage control,” said Dulce.
According to Dulce, as proof of his allegation, in the MGB directory of operating metallic mines in the Philippines, Benguet Corp.is listed with gold mine as its operation with Acupan Contract Mining Project with a patented mining claim denominated as PC-ACMP 002-CAR.
The Cordillera People’s Alliance, its affiliate and network member in the Cordillera region, also attested to this claim, Dulce said.
Photos in Cebu
Meanwhile, in Naga, Cebu, Dulce said aerial photos show that the debris came from the limestone deposits of Apo-Cemex quarry, where they were conducting earth-moving operations.
“They are denying this but residents are testifying in the news of witnessing active quarry operations. This calls for an investigation,” he said.
Dulce said the mining and quarrying firms and the government regulators are accountable if they have substandard risk mitigation programs.
“They cannot claim ‘force majeure’ on this one because long-term climate projections are warning us of increased rainfall and stronger or extreme weather events in the coming decades,” he said.
Protest at miners' confab demand justice for Itogon disaster
Kalikasan PNE Press release
20 September 2018
Protesters led by the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) stormed the International Conference of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), decrying what they called “a whitewash” by government and big business over the recent mining disaster in Itogon, Benguet.
Police violently blocked the peaceful protest. Some 9 of the protesters were arrested and detained at the Pasay City Hall.
"We vehemently reject the chorus of the Chamber of Mines and the Duterte government in victim-blaming the small-scale miners that died in the Itogon disaster. Benguet Corporation has criminally neglected its obligation to rehabilitate their abandoned mine site and has sabotaged attempts by small-scale miners to self-regulate. The Duterte government is complicit for derailing the suspension order that would have compelled Benguet Corp. to rehabilitate their abandoned mine," said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The massive landslide in the mining town triggered by Typhoon Ompong resulted in casualties feared to number up to over 100 people, mostly small-scale miners.
The environment group said BC’s abandoned mine has a track record of geological risks. In 2015, their abandoned mine caused a sinkhole that swallowed six houses and displaced 166. In November 2016, its unrehabilitated Antamok open pit mine also figured in a 50,000 metric-ton tailings leak.
“Small-scale miners actually attempted to apply for regulations through an application for a ‘Minahang Bayan.’ Benguet Corp., as tenement holder over the area, opposed this effort likely to maintain their control over the area’s mineral resources,” Dulce explained.
“This is just one mine site that was supposed to have been suspended. There are mining closure or suspension orders for 28 big mines found violating environmental and socio-economic regulations that were stayed by the Office of the President itself. Is Duterte going to wait for another disaster to happen in any of these sites before he starts walking his talk?,” he furthered.
The protesters also raised that harassments, illegal arrests and detentions, trumped-up charges, and extrajudicial killings are replete in at least 20 of these 28 mines.
“Major sponsors of the Chamber’s conference such as Filminera in Masbate and OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya have a plethora of human rights violations monitored in their mine sites. At least nine killings involved peasants in Masbate who were from communities that mobilized against Filminera’s destructive operations,” Dulce said.
“These big mines have blood all over their hands. Duterte’s inaction over these mining atrocities makes him as guilty as these plunderers,” he concluded.#
Reference: Leon Dulce – 0917 562 6824
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 356 21 66 | E-mail: secretariat(at)kalikasan(dot)net | Site: www(dot)kalikasan(dot)net
No to large-scale mining in Benguet! Hold the BCI accountable for Itogon tragedy!
Cordillera People Alliance (CPA) Statement
27 September 2018
The government's abandonment of its people is stark clear when it helps propagate the heartless myth that the victims of the landslide in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet are at fault for the catastrophe. Putting blame on the victims and their families is inhumane and it must be corrected. We must scrutinize the situation and all events that led to the Itogon tragedy to find out who is at fault and therefore demand justice for the demise of our 'kailians'. It is the large-scale mining operations of Benguet Corporation, Inc. that is accountable for the Itogon tragedy.
The victims of the Itogon landslides were mostly small scale miners and their families who did nothing but risk their lives everyday in backbreaking hard labor to bring home what little they could to support their families. Small scale mining is a traditional livelihood for indigenous peoples of Benguet. While it is true that there needs regulation, what right does the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu have to say that small-scale miners are at fault for the Itogon tragedy and therefore he will suspend all small scale mining activities. To put the blame on the victims, and not saying or doing anything about the real culprit, is rubbing insult to the insurmountable grief of those who have lost not only their family members but also their source of income.
Instead of standing with its constituency in times of crisis, the Duterte regime is even using this unfortunate event to advance the selfish interest of his cronies, the capitalist investors. We condemn this disgusting and detestable act of the government, turning its back from the people when they needed support.
Suspending all small scale mining activities will only result to the loss of livelihood of some 100,000 small-scale miners. It definitely will not solve the problem of disaster management. This will only be favourable to the foreign mining corporations who operate extensively and in a larger scale as they now have our mountains all to themselves, courtesy of the government led by Duterte. While the people suffer everyday with limited means to support their families, this government and their capitalist cronies lounges in millions plundered from our mountains.
To put a stop to small scale mining will not solve the threat of disaster during extreme weather conditions. According to former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, typhoon, supertyphoon and earthquake are natural occurences and is expected for a country within the ring of fire and that mining is not fit. The disaster posed by these occurrences will always be there but what aggravates it is the question.
The history of mining in Benguet is a narrative of the plunder and extent of damage to our mountains by the large scale mining operation of the Benguet Corporation, Inc. (BCI) for almost a century. Its years of plundering the Ibaloi lands created a maze of tunnels underground thus making it more vulnerable to landslides and earthquakes. Worse, BCI encouraged small-scale miners to mine inside its tunnels for profit, through its small-scale mining contract scheme. What is even more enraging is that the mining firm just abandoned these mining tunnels and other environmental damages from their previous open-pit mining operation without efforts of rehabilitating it.
The government, instead of scrutinizing this fact and coming up with ways on how to ensure the safety of the people in times of disaster and holding the mining firm accountable for their abuse of our environment at the expense of our lives, is using this unfortunate event as a launching pad for selfish corporate deals. We have to be on guard for mining regulations that are sure to follow which, essentially, are anti-people.
It is the peoples’ lives and livelihood at stake. We have to unite and take decisive action to protect our environment and our rights as indigenous peoples. Hold Benguet Corporation, Inc. accountable for the tragedies in Itogon! Stop large-scale mining!
Vice Chairperson for Internal Affairs
CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE
No. 55 Ferguson Road
Baguio City 2600, Philippines
Tel. No. (+63) 74 4229754
Fax No. (+63) 74 4437159
Typhoon Mangkhut: 100 people presumed dead after landslide
Hope of finding survivors fades after landslide in remote Philippines town buries dozens
Carmela Fonbuena in Manila and Hannah Ellis-Petersen in Bangkok
17 September 2018
Almost 100 people are presumed dead after a landslide caused by Typhoon Mangkhut enveloped a small mining town in the Philippines, burying homes and a chapel where dozens of people had taken shelter.
By Monday night 36 bodies had been recovered in the remote town of Itogon, with 12 pulled from the ruins of the chapel. The area’s death toll was expected to rise with more than 50 people missing.
Mangkhut, a category five typhoon, swept through the Philippine region of Luzon on Saturday, wreaking destruction on homes and crops and causing massive flooding.
At the height of the storm, dozens of people in Itogon – mostly miners and their families – took refuge in a chapel housed in a former bunkhouse in the belief they would be protected. However, part of a mountain collapsed on top of the building.
Relatives of those lost gathered at the site in the aftermath but by Monday evening hopes of finding any survivors were diminishing as rescuers paused their efforts.
“I am 99% sure the people there are dead,” said the mayor of Itogon, Victorio Palangdan. “We will continue until we get them all.”
During the day about 300 rescuers used shovels and their bare hands to claw through mounds of rocky soil. A human chain was formed to pass rocks, debris and tree trunks out of the search area.
The landslide left a gaping gash in a hillside studded with small homes topped with rusting metals roofs. With damage to roads preventing the entry of heavy equipment, soldiers, police and miners used shovels to channel water from a nearby stream to loosen the earth.
It was excruciatingly slow work, as anguished relatives watched and waited for word on their missing loved ones. Recovered bodies were draped in fabric and lined up in a row at a makeshift tent on a road above the chapel.
Jonalyn Felipe, whose husband, Dennis, a small-scale goldminer in Itogon, was among those buried in the landslide, said she had tried to make him return to their home in northern Quirino province on Friday as the typhoon approached but he had refused.
“I was insisting because the storm was strong but he told me not to worry because he said they’re safe there,” she said, adding that her husband was last seen chatting with fellow miners in the chapel before it was hit.
Ricardo Jalad, the Philippines civil defence chief, said rescuers were racing to try to find survivors in the mud. The military and police were being supported by rescue teams, engineers and geologists, he said.
The environment secretary, Roy Cimatu, flew to the area on Monday to investigate what had happened. “We will not stop until we will recover [people] – whether they are still alive – in the mining area in the place of that incident,” he said.
Palangdan said the police had tried to make the miners – who were working on the disused goldmine illegally – leave the bunkhouse chapel before the typhoon hit, but they had refused. “They thought they were really safe there,” the mayor said on Sunday.
At least 64 people have been confirmed dead across the Philippines, and an estimated 5.7 million people in the country are said to have been affected by the storm. The livelihoods of thousands has been devastated as crops were flooded just a few weeks before the harvest.
The storm hit the densely populated southern coast of China on Sunday night. More than 2.4 million people were evacuated from the area, and four died in the storm, according to Chinese state media. The storm is now headed for Yunnan province, a popular tourist area.
The Hong Kong Observatory said Mangkhut was the most powerful cyclone to hit the city since 1979.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report
Rescuers, volunteers manually retrieve 18 bodies in buried bunkhouse in Itogon
By Gerg Cahiles
18 September 2018
Itogon, Benguet — With just their bare hands, shovels, and some power tools, some 200 rescuers and volunteers on Tuesday continued to dig through the mud that buried a miners' bunkhouse in Itogon, Benguet, hoping to find up to 60 people who remain missing and are feared entombed in the site.
Rescue operations were nonstop since Sunday, but authorities had so far retrieved only 18 bodies from the abandoned mining site of Benguet Corporation in Barangay Ucab in Itogon. A landslide buried the bunkhouse-turned-church where small-scale miners and their families sought refuge as Typhoon Ompong battered northern Luzon on Saturday.
Retrieval operations faced many challenges since heavy equipment could not be brought to the site, forcing rescuers to work manually. Rescuers were also unfamiliar with the structure of the bunkhouse and had to depend on locals to work their way around the area.
There has been no sign of life but families continue to hope for good news. Authorities are also not giving up in finding survivors as soon as they can get access inside a previously closed mining tunnel.
"I still believe na may makukuha pa kaming buhay. Kasi yan ang hope namin e. Hindi tayo pwedeng mag-give-up kasi once we lose that hope, bababa na din ang effort, eagerness mo magkuha," Army Disaster Response Unit Commander Lt. Col. Joel Sobrera said.
Itogon Mayor Vic Palangdan said the miners and their families declared the structure their evacuation site without the permission of the local government and disaster officials.
"They were advised to move out because that is a hazardous area during typhoons, it might kill them and it really happened," he said on Monday.
Benguet Corporation said the small-scale miners have been illegally operating on their land. It said it has suspended its mining operations in the area in 1997.
"Their unregulated mining activities are without permission of the company... During the period of suspension, the Antamok (in Itogon) mines was gradually enroached by small-scale operations," it said in a statement.
Palangdan said he previously issued a stop order to small-scale miners, but said he had no police power to enforce it. He also claimed Benguet Corporation gave authorization to the small-scale miners to use their abandoned tunnels. The company denied it, saying they do not have the power to do so.
"Kaya kami kino-connect diyan ay dahil ang kinatatayuan ng mga illegal shanties ay pag-aari ng kompanya. With respect to the mayor, iyan ay hindi pwedeng gawin ng Benguet Corporation sapagkat kami ay may kasunduan sa regulatory agencies. Bilang isang responsableng mining company, hindi kami pwede gumawa ng ganyang kasunduan," Benguet Corp. AVP Ma. Anna Vicedo-Montes told CNN Philippines.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the catastrophic landslide was a "wake-up call," which is why he ordered the stoppage of all small-scale mining in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Palangdan said he worries about the environmental state of Itogon, saying he hopes the community could soon shift from the mining industry to focusing on agriculture.
The police said 74 deaths have been recorded in the country due to Ompong. The casualty count in the entire town of Itogon has reached 35 and up to 60 remain missing. Most were caused by landslides.
UP NOAH (University of the Philippines-Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) Executive Director Mahar Lagmay said Itogon - known for its mining activities - is highly susceptible to landslides.
"The primary factor is the steepness of the area. This is very mountainous terrain. One factor of being steep makes it unstable. Gravity will try to pull it down. Since it was unstable, the excessive amount of rain was the one that triggered the landslide in that unstable slope. What happened there it was really of high potential... but it needed a trigger. The trigger was [the rainfall]," he told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.
Disaster officials said New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, South Korea, and United States have offered help for Ompong-affected communities.
Philippine leader again vows to shut mines after deadly landslides
Manolo Serapio Jr
17 September 2018
MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte repeated his call on Monday to shut all mines in the country following deadly landslides, hours after his minister halted all small-scale mining in a mountainous gold-rich region.
“If I were to try to do my thing I will close all mining in the Philippines,” he said, presiding over a televised meeting of the government’s disaster response team two days after a powerful typhoon struck.
Duterte has often criticized the mining industry, saying the environmental damage far outweighs any benefit to the economy.
His latest comments followed an order earlier by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu to stop all small-scale mining in the Cordillera region, where landslides killed 24 people.
“We have a problem with our mining industry. It has not contributed anything substantial to the national economy,” Duterte said. Shortly after he assumed office in 2016, he warned all miners to follow tighter environmental rules or to shut down, saying the nation could survive without a mining industry.
Mining accounts for less than 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, although only 3 percent of the 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves is being mined.
Mining has been a contentious issue in the Philippines, the world’s No. 2 nickel ore supplier after Indonesia, due to cases of environmental mismanagement.
The government estimates that 60-70 percent of small-scale miners in the country operate illegally, many of them digging for gold, silver and chromite.
Cimatu said he was also revoking temporary mining permits given to 10 associations in the Cordillera region in the wake of the landslides.
Typhoon Mangkhut, which tore across the northern tip of the Philippines early on Saturday, killed at least 54 people, many of them due to landslides which some government officials and large miners said were exacerbated by illegal small-scale mining.
Some of those who died were illegally mining for gold near an abandoned bunkhouse owned by gold miner Benguet Corp, according to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
The chamber, of which Benguet Corp is a member, said mining operators there had been repeatedly told to leave the area because of the threat of landslides.
DENR to investigate mining company, local officials on deadly Itogon, Benguet landslide
By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
19 September 2018
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.
Benguet Corp. backs small miners in Itogon
21 September 2018
BENGUET Corp. wants to legitimize small-scale miners in Itogon by donating to the government its patented property in the Antamok site as a “Minahang Bayan” while providing other livelihood such as ecotourism to the community.
“We are looking at integrated solid waste management, one is a technology turning garbage into power. There’s also a planned ecotourism for them, and the other plan is the Minahang Bayan,” said Anna G. Vicedo-Montes, the company’s assistant vice-president for corporate communications.
“We thought of legitimizing them, asking the government agencies to regulate them, imposing the required environment mitigation programs so that dangers can be mitigated,” she told reporters in a press conference at Sofitel Philippine Plaza on late Wednesday.
The site Benguet Corp. plans to donate is more than 80 hectares, she said. The company has been accused by anti-mining groups for being responsible in the death of miners in the recent landslide in Antamok.
The company’s legal counsel Rey P. Mendoza said Benguet Corp. “has never allowed the small-scale miners to operate within our Antamok claims. The mining activities they are doing there or the processing activities they have are without the permissions of the company.”
He said the company tried to remove the miners from the area because their mining activities could endanger not only to themselves but to the community. He said efforts to prevent them from entering the area were of no avail.
“Our intention is if the area will be converted into a Minahang Bayan, all the other small scale-miners in the other areas of Benguet will be relocated there, then the government can step in to regulate their activities. This is what we did. They refused to be regulated. They have to consider their livelihood aspects,” he added.
Mr. Mendoza said not even the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) was able to stop the small-scale miners from their activities. He said the company was confident that it would be able to explain its side to the government.
“Before the MGB will take any actions, they will give us the chance to explain our sides. I think we can very well explain our side in this matter,” he said.
The company had coordinated with the local government unit and the MGB of the Cordillera Administrative Region in 2002 to establish the Acupan Contract Mining Project, which provided livelihood to the miners who were organized into cooperatives to become legitimate mining contractors, with proper documents.
He said that the company had been forced to give up the site as it was competing with the miners who were destroying the underground infrastructure.
Ms. Montes said that the rehabilitation plan for the site was continuing since the submission in the ’90s ahead of an amended version in 2016.
Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu in his speech on Wednesday during the Mining Philippines Conference and Exhibition 2018 that he would have discussions with mining companies on how to successfully implement mining laws in the country.
“I will meet with you again and discuss things. I want to see how the mining sector will look like in the future,” he said.
MGB Acting Assistant Director Danilo U. Uykieng said that it is a must for the government to communicate with the stakeholders to help promote the mining sector.
He also said that the MGB wants to lift the moratorium on exploration to determine the areas where mining operations should be.
“The government should be at the forefront of promoting the mining industry but we must help each other to communicate with the larger stakeholders, the Filipino people, and be more engaging to them. It is timely that we have to communicate more often. We have to engage not only with regulators but directly to communities. If they understand, they will not ask questions,” he said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio
Philippines 'not fit' for open-pit mining: Gina Lopez
19 September 2018
MANILA – Deadly landslides are a reminder that the Philippines is unfit for open-pit mining, former environment secretary Gina Lopez said Wednesday.
Dozens of people were killed after Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) triggered a landslide that buried mining bunk houses in the mountain town of Itogon, Benguet.
"For me the biggest message here is that we are really not fit for mining because look at what happened when the typhoon hits, there’s a landslide sinong nagdudusa? Yung taong doon nakatira," Lopez told DZMM.
"So to have open pit mining in a country like this is crazy. That’s why whenever there’s mining, the people suffer because we are in a geohazard zone,” she said.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines on Monday urged the government to intensify its crackdown against illegal small-scale miners.
Lopez said the government should focus on large-scale miners because they "cause large scale problems."
Mine workers should be given alternative jobs that are related to the environment preservation, she said. Itogon can be developed into a tourism hub, she said.
New landslide leaves 15 dead, scores buried in Philippines
Reuters - https://www.cbsnews.com/news/philippines-landslide-naga-scores-buried-dead-typhoon-mangkhut-itogon-miners/
20 September 2018
NAGA, Philippines -- A massive landslide buried dozens of homes near a central Philippine mountain Thursday, killing at least 15 people and sending rescuers scrambling to find survivors after some sent text messages pleading for help. It was the second landslide to cause mass casualties in the Philippines in a week, following the onslaught of Typhoon Mangkhut.
The slide surged down on about 30 houses in two rural villages after daybreak in Naga city in Cebu province, Roderick Gonzales, the city police chief, told The Associated Press by telephone as he helped supervise the search and rescue. Seven injured villagers were rescued from the huge mound of earth and debris.
Some victims still managed to send text messages after the landslide hit, Gonzales said, adding that elderly women and a child were among the dead.
Naga city Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said by telephone that at least 64 people remained missing.
"We're really hoping we can still recover them alive," she said.
The landslide hit while several northern Philippine provinces were still dealing with deaths and widespread damage wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut, which pummeled the agricultural region Saturday and left at least 88 people dead and more than 60 missing. A massive search was still underway for dozens of people feared dead after landslides in the gold-mining town of Itogon in the north.
Cebu province was not directly hit by Mangkhut but the massive typhoon helped intensify monsoon rains across a large part of the archipelago, including the central region, where Naga city lies about 353 miles southeast of Manila.
Rescuers there were treading carefully in small groups on the unstable ground to avoid further casualties.
"We're running out of time. The ground in the area is still vibrating. We're striking a balance between intensifying our rescue efforts and ensuring the safety of our rescuers," Naga city Councilor Carmelino Cruz said by phone.
Cristita Villarba, a 53-year-old resident, told AP by phone that her husband and son were preparing to leave for work when the ground shook and they were overwhelmed by a roar.
"It was like an earthquake and there was this thundering, loud banging sound. All of us ran out," Villarba said, adding she, her husband and three children were shocked but unhurt.
Outside, she saw the house of her elderly brother, Lauro, and his family was buried in the landslide.
"Many of our neighbors were crying and screaming for help. Some wanted to help those who got hit but there was too much earth covering the houses, including my brother's," she said.
More than a dozen people live in her brother's home, mostly his family and grandchildren, she said, adding that many small houses in her community got hit.
A few days ago, Villarba said she felt sorry for the landslide victims in the country's north.
"I had no idea we will be the next," she said.
It's not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed limestone quarries, which they suspect may have damaged and caused cracks in the mountainside facing their villages. Villarba said a light rain stopped when the landslide hit and there was no rain on Wednesday.
The quarry nearest the landslide-hit villages was abandoned about a year ago, but a company still runs a government-authorized quarry not far away and villagers also profit from the limestone business, Angeline Templo, an assistant to the mayor, said by phone.
More than 300 villagers were evacuated for safety as search and rescue work continued, Templo said.
Naga is a coastal city with a population of more than 100,000.
DENR temporarily suspends all quarrying activities in PH
By CNN Philippines Staff
21 September 2018
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday temporarily suspended all quarrying activities in the country, following the deadly landslide in Naga City, Cebu.
Activities to extract stones or construction materials from land will be stopped for 15 days.
"I would like to make sure this is not continued and nothing of this kind will happen in another quarry," said Cimatu, who visited the landslide site.
Around 60 houses in the villages of Tinaan and Naalad were buried when heavy rains triggered a landslide in a quarrying site on Thursday. Some of the trapped residents were workers of Apo Land and Quarry Corp., a CEMEX company, which has mining rights where the landslide happened. At least 29 have died, including two workers of Apo Land, and some 60 remain missing.
Apo Land representative Chito Maniago said they have mining rights over the area, but they have not yet begun operations.
Cimatu said they have to review the permits of Apo Land after the incident.
"I have to ascertain that the plan before or the map that they prepared is still applicable," Cimatu said.
Earlier this week, Cimatu also ordered a stop to all small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera Administrative Region following the dozens of landslides recorded in the region due to Typhoon Ompong.
CNN Philippines correspondent Makoi Popioco contributed to this report.
Naga, Cebu landslide: Did authorities ignore signs of danger?
Micole Gerard Tizon
22 September 2018
CEBU, Philippines – Could the deaths from the landslide in Naga City, Cebu have been averted?
A letter addressed to Naga City Mayor Kristine Chiong from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office 7 (MGB-7) circulated shortly after the landslide that killed at least 29 and buried homes on Thursday, September 20.
The letter, dated August 29, said the cracks and fissures in limestones within Apo Land and Quarry Corporation (ALQC) in Sitio Tagaytay, Barangay Tinaan "do not pose an imminent danger to the neighboring community."
Local officials explained the context of the letter during a press conference on Friday, September 21.
Prior to the August 29 letter, the city's Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council submitted an incident report, indicating cracks and fissures in portions of Sitio Tagaytay and Sitio Sindulan.
The incident report prompted Chiong to issue a cease and desist order. She said it was to "immediately stop their quarrying activities."
Due to an absence of geologists in their local government unit, she asked MGB-7 to hold a joint inspection and technical assessment together with barangay officials of Tinaan and members of the ALQC. The investigation, which occurred on August 29, led to a technical report.
The report, titled "Geological Investigation/Assessment Re: Cracks/Fissures in Limestones within Apo Land and Quarry Corporation Tenement in Sitio Tagaytay, Barangay Tinaan, Naga City, Cebu" found the fissures were a "natural phenomenon" unrelated to the mining operations.
Part of the letter addressed to the mayor reads, "The present nature, the number, and the distribution of cracks/fissures in the subject site are not considered critical and do not pose imminent danger to the neighboring community."
MGB Regional Director Loreto Alburo then wrote to Chiong on September 4, saying that based on the technical report, it was the "considered decision" of the regional office to allow resumption of ALQC's operations.
Chiong allowed operations to resume on September 5, albeit with the following conditions:
Observance of the highest standard of safety in quarrying activities
Continued monitoring of the ground fissures on the site
Submission of a written report every 15th of each month
Creation of an evacuation and relocation plan
"To be fair to Apo CEMEX ni comply sila sa usa sa conditions, ni report sila na ni increase ang cracks," Chiong said.
(To be fair to Apo CEMEX they complied with one of the conditions, they reported an increase in cracks.)
ALQC reported a notable increase in the crack on the facility's Main Tower-North. What was previously a 3 mm crack on August 31 became a 35 mm crack on September 11.
Chiong then wrote to DENR Central Visayas Regional Director Gilbert Gonzalez, asking for the MGB to further evaluate the site.
According to Chito Maniago, a representative of ALQC, the local government and people from ALQC went door-to-door on the evening of September 19 to discuss the evacuation and relocation plan.
Disaster struck the next day, however, prompting the mayor to ask the city council to place the area under a state of calamity.
Despite what happened, the mayor emphasized that now was "not the time to pinpoint [blame]." She added that the "technical assistance and expertise" is in the national government.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday suspended quarry operations in Central Visayas and 7 other regions pending their safety assessment.
Cimatu also created a team from the MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau to investigate the Naga landslide, specifically "why [it] happened, how it happened, and what we should do."
The team will also look into the accountability of 4 officials of the MGB regional office in Cebu, whom Cimatu had relieved, in relation to the landslide: Alburo, Chief Administrative and Finance Officer Jerry Mahusay, chief geologist Al Emil Berador, and supervising geologist Dennis Aleta.
In a statement sent to Rappler on Saturday, the ALQC said it intends to fully comply with the environment department's cease and desist order.
"In accordance with the directive of the DENR, ALQC will temporarily cease its operations and exert efforts at helping normalize the situation in affected areas. The company will also cooperate with government investigation that may be conducted in relation to this incident," the statement read.
The company is currently helping the local government in assisting families affected by the landslide. ALQC also said it will support plans to develop a permanent relocation site to "ensure safe homes for more families in Naga City."
"In coordination with the Naga City government and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, ALQC likewise committed to support the medium- and long-term plans of the city to address the present situation which include the creation of a slope stabilization plan that will be submitted to the MGB for proper implementation and execution," it added. – Rappler.com
Tunnels of tragedy
DENR struggles to control small-scale mining after deadly slide in Benguet kills dozens
By Jonathan L. Mayuga
Business Mirror - https://businessmirror.com.ph/tunnels-of-tragedy/
22 September 2018
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has announced the creation of Task Force Mining Challenge to stop the rampant illegal small-scale mining in gold-rich areas in the country, following a deadly landslide that killed dozens of small-scale miners at a mining site in Barangay Ucab, Itogon, Benguet, during the onslaught of Typhoon Ompong recently.
Admitting that illegal small-scale mining is widespread in gold-rich areas, Cimatu vowed to intensify the campaign against “irresponsible” mining and enforce tighter regulation of the largely unregulated gold mining activity.
The DENR chief, however, said he is not keen on imposing a total ban, saying such will deprive tens of thousands of artisanal small-scale gold miners.
“It is the livelihood of small miners. I am not against small-scale mining, but we need to regulate mining,” Cimatu told reporters during a news conference on Wednesday.
Instead, Cimatu vowed to legalize the sector by establishing more Minahang Bayan where small-scale mining activities are robust, such as in the Cordillera region, and generate revenues both for the national government and local government units (LGUs).
The Task Force Mining Challenge, he said, is tasked to stop illegal small-scale mining activities. The police and military will also be tapped as the task force’s enforcement arm.
“We will legalize and properly supervise small-scale mining, including tax collection,” Cimatu said.
The DENR chief, however, said it does not escape his attention that large-scale mining companies, likewise, operate using heavy equipment, including backhoes, dump truck, pay loaders and conveyors, and are “pretending” to be small scale.
“Some of the holes [entry point of a tunnel] are so big that a truck can get in to haul [ores]. They also have conveyors,” Cimatu said.
The official said LGUs that tolerate illegal small-scale mining will also be investigated, as he was informed that some local officials are also into the business of small-scale mining.
There are two mining laws in the Philippines.
Large-scale mining is covered by Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, while small-scale mining is covered by RA 7076, or the People’s Small-scale Mining Act of 1991.
Large-scale mining is regulated by the DENR, through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), while small-scale mining is regulated by LGUs through the Provincial Mining Regulatory Boards (PMRB).
At the Mining Philippines 2018 Conference and Exhibition on Wednesday night, Cimatu stated, “[I] will do [my] homework” and study the mining laws, adding he was aware of the sentiments of large-scale mining operators as the sector was put into bad light anew because of the Itogon incident.
Cimatu said that he promised local officials in Benguet to fast-track the processing of the application for a Minahang Bayan in the Cordillera that is compliant with environment and mining laws.
Out of control
To recall, the conference’s organizer, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), led by its chairman Gerard H. Brimo, the chief executive officer of Nickel Asia Corp., called on the DENR to take a tougher stance against illegal small-scale mining.
In an interview with reporters at the sideline of the event, Brimo expressed dismay that the incident is being blamed on large-scale mining.
He said the already heavily regulated and taxed large-scale mining should be spared from what he described as “out of control” illegal small-scale mining activities and that the government can do more by strictly enforcing the law.
“We at the chamber are not against small scale. They have their purpose. But small-scale miners are really out of control,” Brimo said.
He also suggested that the government should look into properly regulating the sector and generate much-needed revenues, instead of imposing new and additional “punishing” taxes to large-scale mining companies.
Under Executive Order 79, small-scale mining should be done in designated Minahang Bayan identified by the PMRB and approved by the DENR-MGB.
According to MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano, as far as the DENR is concerned, there are only eight Minahang Bayan in the country. However, he said, there are a dozen locally declared Minahang Bayan.
He said the DENR-MGB is currently processing more than 100 Minahang Bayan applications, even as there are at least 200,000 illegal small-scale miners all over the country.
Largely unregulated, small-scale gold mining used to comprise 75 percent of the country’s annual gold output.
Prior to 2010, before the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue—through the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)—decided to strictly collect the 2-percent excise tax on gold sales in small-scale mining, the country’s gold production value attributed to small-scale mining reached up to P40 billion.
Today, gold production value attributed to small-scale mining is less than P1 billion, Moncano revealed.
He said he is also not keen on recommending a nationwide ban on small-scale mining, saying it will deprive small-scale miners the access to the country’s natural wealth.