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Bishop seeks logging probe in wake of Surigao floods

Church leader says towns hit by flooding triggered by ‘Basyang’ want to know truth
05:17 AM February 21, 2018

DEADLY DEBRIS Logs, uprooted trees and other debris litter the village of Cabas-an in Cantilan town, Surigao del Sur, as floodwaters subside. —ERWIN MASCARIÑAS

MADRID, Surigao del Sur — Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar has called for an investigation of logging activities in the hinterland areas of Surigao del Sur province, following the heavy flooding that killed five people, and destroyed roads and bridges as Tropical Storm “Basyang” (international name: Sanba) crossed Mindanao recently.

In a pastoral letter read in Masses in the diocese on Sunday, Odchimar said evidence of logging activities had been uncovered during the floods, citing logs swept downstream by heavy current which rammed into houses, bridges, village halls and other structures.

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Uncovering truth

“We call for an immediate and independent investigation on the flooding in Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza [towns],” Odchimar said in the Feb. 17 pastoral letter.

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“Many residents whose lives and livelihood have been severely affected want to know the reasons why the flood came so fast, and in some areas, why a number of logs and felled trees were swept downstream, destroying houses and other … structures,” he said.

Odchimar said residents in the towns of Cantilan and Carrascal, the areas worst hit by the floods, wanted to know the truth.

The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (RDRRMC) in Caraga region reported that in Carrascal town alone, five people were killed even as homes and bridges were damaged by floods.

The village of Babuyan in Carrascal, which is near a mine site, suffered the most devastation, as tons of muddy debris and logs cascaded down the village, destroying homes and properties.

Chito Trillanes, a representative of the diocese’s Social Action Center to a mining assessment team organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2016, said sections of the mountaintop that the mining firm occupies were directly above the communities of Babuyan and Pantukan.

“There you will also find large perimeter canals, dikes as well as ponds that hold water,” he said, noting these were lined up by logs and excavated soil.

Odchimar urged DENR officials to work with civil society groups and other organizations to organize a “multistakeholder, multidisciplinary team” to look into the extent of logging activities in the area and how severely these had affected the environment.

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Rescuers in Carrascal town, Surigao del Sur, guide a resident through a flooded section of Barangay Babuyan as Tropical Storm “Basyang” crosses Mindanao. —ERWIN MASCARIÑAS

The investigation, he said, should include the activities of mining companies, particularly the cutting of trees in their concession areas.

‘No more forests’

The Inquirer on Tuesday sought representatives and officials of mining companies operating in the area but they did not take calls or reply to text messages sent to them.

But Cantilan Mayor Philip Pichay said: “The soil in the mining area is highly mineralized that no big trees can grow (there). So, there is no more forests to talk about.”

Pichay said there were areas in the province where trees grow and it was likely the logs swept by floodwater came from these areas.

“This is from illegal logging,” the mayor said. —Erwub Mascariñas

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TAGS: Nereo Odchimar, Surigao del Sur flooding, Tropical Storm Basyang
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