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The recent tropical storm, Basyang, that hit Surigao del Sur last February 13, 2018, drew urgent concern from Bishop Nereo Odchimar of the Diocese of Tandag. In a recently released pastoral letter, the Bishop highlighted the “untold suffering among the people, especially in the areas of Cantilan and Carrascal where a flash flood swept a few houses, destroyed several hundred of hectares of rice land and caused death, the initial count of 5 people including children and injured many others.”
Cantilan and Carrascal in Surigao are home to mining companies which have been the subject of many complaints by indigenous communities and civil society advocates due to the destruction of the environment and indigenous culture in these areas. Three (3) of these mining companies were suspended by then Secretary Gina Lopez but were back in operations right after the rejection of Ms. Lopez by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
According to the letter, many residents were baffled at how the flood rose so fast and why in several areas logs and trees were swept downstream, destroying houses and structures in its path. “Could the reason be due to massive mining operations that denuded the natural forested mountain and watersheds of Cantilan and Carrascal?” Bishop Odchimar asked.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a social and development network of civil society organizations, peoples’ organizations, non-government organizations, and faith-based organizations joins the call of our partner communities and the Bishop of the Diocese of Tandag for an investigation of illegal logging activities in the area and alleged claims that siltation ponds in some mining sites collapsed and contributed to the flooding in the CARCANMADCARLAN area especially Carrascal and Cantilan.
“Government can’t be complacent, deaf or blind in the midst of disasters happening in the country. Mining activities make communities more vulnerable to disasters. It is high time and urgent that the impact of mining activities in communities becomes a primordial concern of the DENR and the President of the Philippines. The mining audit and the subsequent cancellations, suspension orders, and show cause orders by then Secretary Lopez was a good start. Stiffer measures and accountability are needed now including upholding the suspension orders” Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI said.
She further added that “We can’t help but think that if the cancellation and suspension orders were enforced to the letter, the impact of Typhoon Basyang wouldn’t be this massive.”
We join the Bishop in his call for a formation of a multi-stakeholder, multidisciplinary investigation team to investigate not just on the logging but on the mining activities in these towns as well which may have contributed to the devastation. We call on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct a thorough investigation and exact accountability from the culprits whose activities caused the denudation of forests and watersheds of these municipalities.