An environmental watchdog attributed the high number of casualties in several Caraga towns to President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed flip-flopping on issues involving mining, emphasizing that continued operation of big mining companies were to blame for the devastation.
“Duterte could have prevented, or at least lessened, the number of fatalities in Caraga resulting from a mere Signal Number 2 Typhoon Basyang last February 13, 2018. If only he was true to his campaign promises, or he supported Gina Lopez as DENR secretary or he made sure Gen. Roy Cimatu continued what she started, or if he himself put an end to open pit mining operations,” said Fr. Raymond Ambray, spokesperson of the environmental watchdog Caraga Watch.
“He had so many opportunities to have averted the destruction resulting from the sudden deluge of silt from large scale mines running down communities. But as always, Duterte is all hot air when it comes to ridding the country of destructive large scale mining,” Ambray added.
The death toll caused by Tropical Storm Basyang in Caraga region had climbed to 15, reports from disaster response offices showed.
Most of the victims drowned due to flash floods and overflowed rivers and creeks while other victims were also hit by landslides.
Ambray noted there were high casualties in landslides that occur in mining areas operated by CTP Mining and Construction, Carrascal Nickel Corp. (CNC) and MarcVentures Mining Development Corp. (MMDC) in the mining towns of Carrascal, Cantilan and Madrid , all in Surigao del Sur.
According to him, the settling ponds of CNC allegedly overflowed to Barangay Babuyan, killing a one- year old child and also flooded the adjacent barangays burying half of hundreds of houses under mining wastes.
Also, alleged environmentally destructive mining practices that resulted in siltation in the border towns in the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte, Lake Mainit, to which mine wastes from Red Five-Greenstone Mining Company mining drain, overflowed, causing connecting rivers to rise and destroy bridges, making roads impassable, Ambray said.
In Surigao del Norte, Surigao River, to which mine wastes from mining firm Philex-Silangan Mining drain, seriously flooded Surigao City, Sison, Placer and Bacuag, Ambray alleged.
Amid the devastation and casualties, Ambray expressed dismay that “no single word has come out from Environment Secretary Cimatu or Malacañang to call for an investigation of the mining structures that may have increased tenfold the effects of the typhoon.”
“ The silence is deafening. Is it because the most affected among the LGUs are miners themselves or are supporting large scale miners? Is it because the DENR and Malacañang are trying to protect the miners and the mining industry?” he lamented. By Ben Serrano and GD