LGUs told to stop issuing small-scale mining permits

Posted at 01/05/2012 6:17 PM | Updated as of 01/06/2012 7:30 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Small-scale mining could be one of the reasons behind the landslide in Pantukan, Compostela Valley that has killed at least 25 people and left 100 more missing.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje said local officials should stop issuing permits to small-scale miners.

Paje said the DENR no longer issues environment compliance certificates for small-scale mining.

He added that geologists from his agency have been dispatched to Pantukan to assess possible dangers posed on rescuers.

Paje warned that more landslides are possible in that area.

Warned in November

The DENR said the local government of Compostela Valley was advised as early as November last year to evacuate Barangay Napnapan due to risks of landslides.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Nazareno said they made the appeal after tension cracks were spotted along the mountain ridges of the landslide site.

Nazareno added that since last year, the cracks continued to widen because of the weight of structures built in the area.

Paje, meanwhile, reiterated their appeal to all local government officials to study the DENR's geohazard maps and create measures to protect the public from disasters.

Search operations suspended

Meanwhile, search and rescue operations have been suspended at the landslide site.

Dr. Bong Lantaya, spokesperson of the local disaster council, said heavy and continuous rains hampered rescue operations, but search teams are on standby in case the weather improves.

He added that Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas is asking mining groups to help in the search, as heavy equipment have yet to reach the area.

Lantayan also reacted to officials who blame the local government for allowing residents to stay in the high-risk area.

He said despite warnings from local officials, residents opted to stay in the village because of economic opportunities.

"Inspite of immediate appeal by local chief executive, people opted to stay in the area as their reason for their livelihood," he said.

"This would be a lesson learned and for the miners, and I hope this would give them a warning call and this will be our basis again for driving them away from the area," Lantayan added. - reports from ANC