Mining, logging contributed to Philippine disaster – experts


Residents scramble to strip a barge used for mining gold at the Iponan River which got stuck underneath the Bulao Bridge in Sitio Bulau, Barangay Iponan, Cagayan de Oro City. PHOTO BY JB R. DEVEZA / INQUIRER MINDANAO

MANILA, Philippines –Unchecked illegal gold mining and decades of indiscriminate logging contributed to the high death toll in the Philippines’ worst natural disaster this year, officials and experts said.

Whole towns were washed away or buried by landslides when Typhoon Botha smashed into a mountainous region on the southern island of Mindanao last week, leaving 548 people confirmed dead and 827 missing.

Poverty, greed and the lure of the precious metal have long drawn thousands of prospectors to the region.

“Mining and logging may have had an effect,” said civil defense chief Benito Ramos.

“The mountains have been denuded for decades, and filled with holes by our countrymen who are small-time miners. It pains me to say this, but these are the facts,” he said.

The worst-hit southern town of New Bataan is both a center of the devastated banana industry and host to some of the thousands of illegal gold-mining operations in the Mindanao province of Compostela Valley.

Geologists said the mountainous area is mostly unsafe for habitation. But numerous small, illegal or poorly regulated gold mines dot its slopes and the local government said they provide 40 percent of the province’s economic output.

Much of the forest cover was also cut down long ago to make way for row upon row of bananas to supply the major markets of China, Iran and Japan.

The plantations and hopes of striking it rich have drawn hundreds of thousands of poor migrants in search of work. They settle in mountain hamlets around which poisonous mercury, used to extract gold from rock, is routinely dumped into rivers.

The deluge wrought by the strongest cyclone to hit the country this year came despite days of preparations and advance warnings including an early evacuation of vulnerable areas.

Governor Arthur Uy said 75,000 people, or one in five in the province, rely on the mines and regulation is a sore point.

The environment ministry insisted it was the local officials like Uy who were required by law to issue small-scale mining permits and who must ensure people do not settle areas considered prone to landslides and flash floods.

But Uy protested that the ministry’s “geohazard maps” showed that 80 percent of the entire province is a danger zone.

“What shall we do? Should we all move from Compostela Valley?” he said.

Uy also said miners had resisted efforts to relocate them, preferring the danger to poverty.

“It is the risk they are willing to take, just to strike it rich. They don’t want to move,” he said.

Larry Heradez, a technical officer for the Philippine government’s mining regulator, said people in New Bataan and nearby gold-rush areas may have known about the danger but sought refuge in the wrong areas.

“There is a problem of information dissemination. The local officials also thought they are evacuating to an area which was safe,” he told AFP.

Rescuers said government shelters were among buildings swept by the floods.

In any case, all the elements of a disaster in the making were already there long before geohazard maps came into fashion, said University of the Philippines geology professor Sandra Catana.

“They (have been) living in these areas before technology came about including the awareness of geohazards in this country which started only in 1990s,” she told AFP.

With Mindanao usually spared by the 20 or so storms that lash the Philippines every year, people may have become complacent and were caught unprepared by the typhoon which struck further south than usual, officials said.

But the head of a government flood control programme, Mahar Lagmay, warned that weather patterns were changing.

“Previously we have had tracks in the last several decades where (storms) were moving more to the north. Now, they say, it is moving towards the south,” he said.

Some 1,200 people were killed when tropical storm Washi struck Mindanao’s north coast in December last year, but Uy conceded that residents of his southern region never expected a killer storm like “Pable” (international code: Bopha).

“This was the first time this happened to us, we did prepare… but we never felt anything this strong. We were taken by surprise. That is one of the reasons there were so many casualties,” he said.

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  • Fred Y

    governor uy has contributed to the deaths of the people in the area. first is to remove him and replace with somebody who can provide safety to the constituents. It is unfortunate that it takes a 
    major catastrophe to realize our glaring mistake. the dead remains dead and the family lost lives that wont come back. hope that this major mistake comes a better governance. but first remove governor uy. all he does is justify rather than learn from the mistakes.

    • bugoybanggers

      Hindi mo masisi ang kasalukuyan, ang nakaraan ang dapat mong pag aralan.

  • bugoybanggers

    Paalala lang para sa mga nakalimot at nagmamagaling! Ang pagkasira sa mga bulobundokin ng Mindanao lalo na sa EASTERN SIDE ay ang pagbigay ng LOGGING Concession (LEGAL LOGGING ITO) kada companya (naka BASE sa MANILA) para mag putol ng PUNO at pang export sa JAPAN, AMERICA at ibpa. Alalahanin ninyo sa panahong dekada 50’s hanggang 70’s na halos ubusin ng mga kompanyang TAGA LUZON ang mga truso para maypagkakitaan. Bakit totoo naman ang sinabi ng Gobernador tungkol sa lugar na iyan, 80% Hazard na? Aba, bakit pa may tao? Saan ba ang taniman ng SAGING ng PILIPINAS na pang export? Alam ba ng mga TAGA LUZON iyan?Bakit naging sagingan iyan? Ilang BILYONG Dolyares ba ang kinikita ng PILIPINAS sa EXPORT? Nasaan na iyon? Sinakripisyo ninyo ang kalikasan ng MINDANAO sabay sisisihin ninyo ang tagaroon? Ang sisihin ninyo yung mga nakaTIRA sa Metro MANILA o LUZON na siyang nag sira sa buong kabundukan para mapaganda ang kanilang LUGAR. Katas ng MINDANAO pinagsamantalahan, sabay sisisihin ang BIKTIMA. Mag aral naman kayo sa HISTORY.. Mag isip kayo.

    • asdafaa qwesda

       At the time long term consequences of the environment were not considered. This was common not only in the Philippines but around the world. Hence there were no regulatory framework to balance the short term gain with long term costs. It was also during the period your mentioned that the concept of sustainable development was born.

      So it is unfair to compare the 50s and 70s to today when everyone knows the importance of caring for the environment. The best way is to regulate and not outright ban. Banning the legal logging and mining of our resources will only result in only having illegal loggers and miners that we cannot monitor and keep in check.

  • bugoybanggers

    Ang KASALUKUYAN ay RESULTA ng mga KABABUYANG GINAWA ng NAKARAAN. Yung mga BABOY na nagpapasarap sa LUZON ang dapat KATAYIN at LECHONIN at ipakain kay LOLONG!

    • asdafaa qwesda

      That’s your solution to preventing disasters like this?

  • ever green

    kailangan ba ng expert para sabihin ang sanhi ng sakuna sa mindanao??!!?? Hindi natin mako-control ang bagyo ngunit ang logging, mining, kaingin, settlement ay kaya macontrol……

    • bugoybanggers

      wala ng kokontrolin dahil wasak na. Dapat noon pa habang may mga PUNO pa ang bundok may nakamasid na at alam dapat ang mangyayari sa FUTURE. Tanong ninyo iyan sa mga LOLO ninyo baka alam nila ang mangyayari sa kasalukuyan ng winarak nila ang kabundokan noong bata-bata pa sila. Nag isip ba kamo sila para sa KASALUKUYAN?

  • buttones

    It is reported that 70% of our gold is mined by small scale miners- it s also reported that 90% of this is being smuggled out of the country, basically China. It follows, that the small scale miner does not have the logistics and money and contacts to smuggle gold out of the country-some high placed individuals do. All the minerals of this country are deemed to be owned by the state, so it also follows that smugglers and miners are stealing from our purse- it is the same as anyone breaking into the Central Bank and stealing all their gold reserves, if that ever happened all the forces we have would be engaged in tracking down this burglar- why is it that nobody ‘knows’ the masterminds behind gold smuggling, timber smuggling, coral smuggling etc?

  • Lando

    panay pa-cute ng administrasyon ni Pnoy…..walang aksyon

  • Olibo

    Illegal mining and logging means – digging your own grave.

    • bugoybanggers

      Papano ang LEGAL MINING at LEGAL LOGGING okay lang?

  • Jesse_Bruce_Pinkman

    “Mining and logging may have had an effect”

    This is absolutely not the same thing as saying as what the title says it is.

    This is a natural disaster and even if there were no mines or the trees remained lush, this disaster would have still occurred anyway. The geologic features of the area were such that an unusual amount of rain would send giant floods rushing down the slopes.

    It was a disaster that was waiting to happen and it was bigger than any mining or logging could ever do. The people who died were just at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

  • SolidBasketball

    super bagal kumilos ni Pnoy

  • Mang Teban

    A sad picture of government neglect is depicted in the way people can do what they want even if what they are doing is against the laws of the land.

    Why can’t those laws on illegal settlements, illegal logging, illegal mining, and protecting the environment being enforced? No one mandated and accountable for the implementation of laws in any part of this country can reason out that the people were informed and yet insisted to “break the law”. I think that is what is called “lack of political will.”

    The tragedies in calamity-stricken areas end up always with regret on a hindsight. Despite the series of experiences with previous natural calamities, the loss of lives have been increasing. In the Compostela Valley, it should serve as a lesson for everyone. 

    I find the rehabilitation efforts of our government agencies, particularly the DSWD and the DepEd, wanting. Seen on TV were disgruntled residents ordered to queue for a long time only for the DSWD to get a master list but no food rations, no blankets, no medical supplies, nothing at all. Why should the list be more important than the food and water the hungry victims were in need of? 

    Same with the DepEd who has not lifted a finger to mobilize repair and restoration of classrooms and replacement of water-damaged school materials, textbooks, supplies. What a shame! It is disappointing enough to see President Aquino to irked and declare an order to “Stop the blaming” and yet he himself has not done anything to reprimand his Cabinet secretaries (DSWD & DepEd). Only NDRMMC Undersectary Benito Ramos got a “spanking” for lack of accuracy on stats on victims. This is unfair. Every non-performing “apparatchik” in the Aquino administration must be given a crack of the whip.

    • Jack

      huwag na po kayong magworry mang teban, kasi sa dec 21, 2012 daw ay mgugunaw na mundo

  • opinyonlangpo

    I’m glad the officials and government agencies are learning a hard earned lesson from the tragedy. Proper municipal planning, identification of hazardous areas, stopping illegal logging, proper regulation of mining and so on could have lessened the loss of lives. One supergenius commenter with user name Mike_1974 says otherwise that it is God’s will and there’s nowhere to hide and that nobody is to blame. Local government executives should be made partly responsible for the tragedy and the rest for the national government for neglecting the regulation of mining and suppressing illegal logging. Last year’s Sendong should have made them prepare but it still happened, how many more tragedies before finally they make solid actions to reduce casualties.

  • Edgardo Mendoza


  • disqusted0fu

    how can you stop illegal logging in Mindanao if the Cojuangcos (relatives of the president) are said to be involved in such activities?!

  • garcia677

    It’s high time that the gov’t stop this small pocket mining and support big mining firms since these mining firms conduct their operations through scientific ways while these pocket miners using crude method just keep on boring every part of a mountain without erecting a protection wall inside the tunnel.

  • Luthmar

    Why we never learned from previous experiences is beyond me.  Illegal loggers and illegal miners caught should be lined up against a wall and shoot them.   

  • Jack

    Mining and logging may have had an effect,” said civil defense chief Benito Ramos. “The mountains have been denuded for decades, and filled with holes by our countrymen who are small-time miners. It pains me to say this, but these are the facts,” he said.

    Mang benito ramos, paano po naging illegal logging yan, eh yon mga puno ay may mga ugat pa na kasama na kasamang rumagasa sa mga “flash floods”

  • boybakal

    Mining, logging contributed to Philippine disaster – experts….

    Bakit naman sa New York, wala naman Mining, Logging mas malaki pa ang pinsala ng Hurricane Sandy kesa kay Typhoon Pablo;
    Bakit sa Hurricane Katrina, wala naman Mining, Logging, mas malaki pa ang pinsala kay Typhoon Pablo.

    Kung walang Typhoon Pablo, walang disaster, kung di tumama si Pablo sa Davao Oriental at Compostela, walang disaster.
    Tama na yan mga side comments ng hindi naman experto.
    Walang basehanl, walang scientific studies….mga Haka Haka.

  • Jason_Voorhees

    Akalain mo naisip nila yun?!!

  • asdafaa qwesda

    Small time miners and loggers are difficult if not impossible to track down. They have zero paperwork and can disappear and reappear anywhere.

    Big mining companies on the other hand are easier to trace, monitor and penalize.

    HOY PENOY! umayos ka! You care more about your friends than the welfare of the Filipino people. You don’t want to confront them for fear of embarrassing them; I have news for you, people’s lives and livelihood are lost because of the corruption and/or incompetence of your barkada.

    Your priorities are seriously screwed up, were you dropped on your head as a baby?!?

  • JonilynT

    Keysa magsisihan, mas mabuting pag-igihan nalang ng gobyerno na magpadala ng relief good dito sa Mindanao. Nakakaluka ang balita, pinapila ba naman ang mga tao sa mga Baganga, Davao Oriental dahil darating daw ang presidente para magbigay ng relief goods sa kanila, pagkatapos, hindi naman pala dumating. Hanggan New Bataan, Compostela lang ang relief goods :(

  • Jon

    Mining, logging contributed to Philippine disaster – experts

    So, will DENR Sec. Paje be held responsible for this?
    Or will the small scale miners, illegal loggers, and the other usual suspects be the only ones who will be prosecuted for this?

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