The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Wednesday the mine operations in Itogon, Benguet, did not cause the landslide that killed 20 small-scale miners in the area at the height of Typhoon “Ompong.”
Fay Apil, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional director at the Cordillera Administrative Region, said there was no mining operation in Itogon that could have caused the debris to fall and bury the victims alive.
“How could you consider a place a landslide-prone area? [First] See if it is covered in thick soil with fractured rocks, steep slopes and monsoon rains,” Apil said.
She made her statement even as the Palace said Wednesday the government wants to implement Boracay-like rehabilitation projects in the Cordillera Administrative Region as President Rodrigo Duterte has hinted at repealing the mining law to shut down the mining industry in the country.
“When we were in Benguet, we thought that the situation was the same with what happened in Boracay,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told dzMM radio.
“We will apply what we did in Boracay to solve the problems in Cordillera and Itogon.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Local Government Concerns Benny Antiporda said “with or without any mining operation, there will be a landslide. [Unfortunately}, the miners built their shanties there.”
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said he had sent an MGB team to identify those responsible why there were people staying at the mine site.
He said the DENR had not been remiss in its duty to remind the public that Itogon was a hazardous zone, especially during typhoons, but the residents refused to leave the area.
According to Apil, the operation of Benguet Corp. had actually closed in 1997.
She said the mining firm submitted a final mining and decommissioning plan to the Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee in 2016.
“It had been under the company’s care and maintenance from 1997 to 2016,” she said.
She said the plan was submitted in 2016, during which Benguet Corp. decided not to go back to mining.
The company’s final mining and the decommissioning plan was turned over to the contingent liability rehabilitation fund committee just three months ago for review.