Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday fired the top officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Region 7, even as the death toll in the deadly landslide in Naga City, Cebu jumped to 29.
Cimatu also ordered a halt to all quarrying activities in eight regions, even as President Rodrigo Duterte visited the families of the landslide victims who fled their homes in Sitio Sindulan, Barangay Tinaan, Naga in the wake of the disaster.
Duterte was furious when he learned of a deadly landslide in Cebu, just days after some 79 perished in a mudslide in the Cordillera Administrative Region, the Palace said Friday.
“Well, [he was] absolutely [mad] because the accident happened near another mining quarry site,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in an interview on radio dzRH.
He said the new tragedy only strengthened the President’s conviction about closing down the mining industry over environmental concerns.
Cimatu said he will be sending an investigation team from Manila to conduct a thorough and independent investigation to see why and how it happened and what should the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should do.
“I ordered the suspension for 15 days, at least, of all quarry operations in Regions 1, 3, 4-A, 5, 7, 11, 10, and 13 until such time the review and assessment are completed, especially the surrounding communities from the impact of quarry operations and geohazards,” the environment chief told reporters in Naga.
He ordered a review and assessment of all quarrying operations across the country to determine the safety of their operations, especially to the surrounding communities “or the sitios under the quarry.”
On Thursday, the Palace said the government will consider all options to prevent further loss of lives and damage to properties following the deadly landslide in Naga, where the death toll rose to 29.
“We will look for ways to prevent tragedies like this in the future,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing, suggesting a major clean-up similar to that on Boracay Island.
The President, meanwhile, said he could ask Congress to repeal the mining law to shut down the industry because of the environmental damage it does.
Police on Friday said the death toll in Naga City, Cebu landslide rose to 29 as rescuers frantically dug for survivors.
Dozens were still missing as authorities probed whether a nearby rock quarry could have played a role in the massive hillside collapse Thursday that hit rural communities in Naga on the tourist island of Cebu.
The rescue effort came as the nation was still reeling from Typhoon “Ompong,” whose toll hit 95 dead on Thursday, mostly from a massive landslide in the country’s mountainous north.
Rescuers on Cebu have pulled 29 corpses from the debris, the Philippine National Police said, as people living in homes spared from the landslide were evacuated as a precaution.
Hundreds of police, firemen, and specialists using heavy equipment were looking for about 50 people, provincial disaster office spokesman Julius Regner said.
Naga, Cebu Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said she has asked the council to place the city under state of calamity amid rescue efforts. She added that they will seek additional help from the national government.
Authorities are not sure whether the limestone quarry near the slide-hit area contributed to the disaster, but they have ordered a temporary 15-day halt to quarry operations around the country as a precaution.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu told a press conference the government will conduct a national review “to determine the safety of quarry operation areas, most especially the surrounding communities.”
The Philippines has a poor record of regulating mining, with tunnel collapses and landslides regularly killing people in other areas in recent years.
Cebu was not directly hit by Ompong, the world’s strongest typhoon this year, but has been pounded by heavy monsoon rain for days, making the slopes dangerously loose.
The efforts in Cebu came as searchers in the north continued to work to recover the corpses of a suspected dozens of people buried in a landslide unleashed Saturday by the typhoon.
However, rescue work in the mining community of Itogon was slowed on Thursday when most of the crews were evacuated over concerns that the surrounding hillsides could also collapse.
Small-scale miners and their families were buried after their homes were hit by one of the dozens of landslides unleashed as the storm hit the Cordillera mountain range.
Most of the 95 people killed by “Mangkhut” died in landslides in the gold-mining region that includes Itogon.
Ompong also dumped torrential rains on the key agricultural areas of Luzon, causing crop losses that will likely total more than $250 million. With AFP
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