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MGB vows to relocate landslide ground zero


MACO, Davao de Oro— The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is considering the relocation of the mining village of Masara here, the ground zero of the deadly landslide on Tuesday February  6 that already claimed 35 lives, 77 still missing and 32 injured as of Saturday’s countdown.

Engr. Ferdinand Dobli, Apex Mining Co. community relations chief and one of the company’s incident command leader at the incident command center in Barangay Elizalde, said MGB has told him that the agency is now seriously considering the strict enforcement in the relocation of Masara Barangay site and declaring the ground zero as no build zone.

Dobli admitted that there were at least two landslides in the area in 2007 killing 10 people and a year later 24 were also killed due to heavy rainfalls.

But he explained the Apex’s administration building located at the foot of the mountain is 2 kilometers away from the ground zero and the company’s active mining operation site is even 5 kilometers away in another village of Teresa.

He however said the mountain where the tragic landslide occurred was part of their exploration area of their 2,000-hectare Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) set to expire in 2030 and 2032.

“It was really an act of nature,” Dobli admitted on the landslide tragedy explaining further that it just so happened on the right timing that two of three of the company’s shuttle buses that ferried home mine workers was hit by the sudden rampaging of pyroclastic soils and rock boulders 75 meters above.

He said the company installed two fog lights facing the mountain as part of the pre-emptive measure if any untoward incident occurs but at the time of the incident at around 7:00 pm that lights went out.

Dobli said one of the survivors inside the bus told him that many of the panicking passengers tried to forced their way to get out at the door but it was too late while he stayed calm and tighly gripped one of the bus poles and waited until the rampaging of soil and boulders stopped when he tried to forced his way out by slamming the window where he sensed it was not buried.

Bleak future

Bea  Esmero, daughter of the mine worker still declared missing, said a company co-worker called to tell her that his father and his supervisor tried to jumped outside the window but were already caught by the landslide.

When rescue responders in the retrieval operation was able to salvage one of the buses there were already no passengers inside.

Her breadwinner father, Renato works as grade control operator who drives a payloader and dump trucks, has been working in the company for five years.

Her worries was compounded by her future in collegiate studies at Central Mindanao University in Bukidnon as a government scholar education student considering that her mother was sickly having been hospitalized in Tagum last month for difficulty in breathing and her brother also hospitalized for lupus sickness.

But Dobli assured that the company will support Bea on her living allowances at school equivalent to the standard rate of private schools semestral tuition fees even including the miscellaneous fees.

“We have been doing this in the past even not in time of calamities but on personal cases when the breadwinners died,” he said.


MGB-Davao Geosciences Division chief Beverly Brebante in a zoom press conference on Saturday said that the mountain in Masara where the landslide occurred is vegetated but the continuous heavy rains and its steep slope caused the landslide.

But Elmer Luzon, general manager of San Francisco Water District in Agusan del Sur, said vegetation is not enough to prevent landslide to happen even it it was caused by heavy rainfall.

He cited a model in the 1,652 Mt. Magdiwata Watershed where the  75 percent of hardwood species of trees sturdily stood ground to hold cascading waters from  heavy rains from causing landslides.

He said the adequate forest with deeply-rooted hardwood trees aside from clearing of natural waterways to prevent natural water damming and slope protection intervention by installing gabions is the way to prevent landslides.

Apart from this intervention, Luzon said SFWD forest rangers are deployed daily to check on the condition of the watershed aside from chasing ilegal tree cutters.

Mt. Magdiwata already possess 90 percent of forest cover where it used to be  45 percent more than 20 years back due to illegal logging. SFWD has been in the forefront of protecting it after it was declared permanent watershed through Presidential Proclamation 282 by then president Fidel Ramos.



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