Quake collapses Itogon river walls; floods feared with heavy monsoon rains

>> Thursday, August 4, 2022

By Primo Agatep

ITOGON, Benguet- Residents here urged asked assistance from government  to repair and construct concrete collapsed retaining walls along the banks of Antamok River following Wednesday’s (July 27) earthquake to  prevent a major disaster in the slide prone  Sitio Luneta in Barangay Loacan-Antamok.
    Some of around 5,000 residents that included pocket miners belonging to Luneta Miner's Association (LMA) Inc. said several portions of the decades-old concrete wall collapsed, just a few meters   away from residential houses which posed great danger to their lives.
    Residents spotted several cracks on the foundation of a busy foot bridge, built several years ago.
    “This is our problem especially during rainy season. It is worse during monsoon season when large volume of water upstream  Antamok river may  eventually destroy those hanging walls (ripraps) causing massive destruction in the community,” said John Lantungan, president of Luneta Miner's Association Inc.
    Through Lantungan, residents in said  mining community,  appealed  to  government and to Benguet Corp. to  address  and find a win-win solution for their plight even as they acknowledged countless projects and support extended to them by the government and  private mining firm.
    Years back, a community public school and several houses were destroyed and washed away, and scores were injured when mud rock slide occurred caused by a typhoon.
    A 13-hectare intended as relocation site for the victims of the tragedy was offered by the government and Benguet Corp. but it never materialized.
    Ernesto Delia, one of community elders, an LMA adviser, told media residents had been living in the area for decades, and mining is part of their lives.
    As announced by President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr., school year 2022-2023 starts on Aug 22 when children would be exposed to danger from calamities.
    Another major problem is when the open pit mine water overflows brought by cascading water from Antamok river becomes impassable and school children and students can’t attend classes.
    When  isolated, supply of food and other basic needs  are cut.
    People in the area experienced difficulty in transporting patients in emergency cases.
    Asked why they continue mining, residents in Sitio Luneta said they have hope that one of these days, they will find a stone that will change their  lives for good. 
    On Wednesday dozens of LMA pocket miners continued July 27 their clean-up drive   dubbed OPlan Linis Iwas Dengue   at Luneta, Barangay Loacan even as the killer quake struck Luzon and strong tremors were felt here.
    As early as 7 a.m., officers and members of LMA, led by its president John Latungan started scaling rocky mountain slopes nearby and the   Antamok River and its tributaries to collect garbage waste dumped indiscriminately.
    Families of pocket miners, especially those living in Luneta and nearby places, residents of the community-some aged 80 years- old , youth and children also went out to help in the cleanliness drive.
    “The clean-up drive is part of our association's (LMA) regular social responsibility -environmental and health programs,” Latungan said. Latungan added  pocket miners and members of their families and residents of the place were  cleaning -collecting garbage when the earthquake  struck Wednesday morning. 
    Latungan and Pablo Tudlong,vice president of the association  said it was their group's support to environmental and health efforts of local and national government- government regulatory bodies,   including  Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miner's, Inc. (BFSSM) ,being an affiliate member.
    LMA officials and residents of Sitio Luneta said for years, their sitio became “catch basin" of illegally dumped garbage.
    They appealed to residents and people living upper stream to dispose their garbage properly.
    They claimed countless garbage collected by them   bore “signs" of addresses from upper places outside their community.
    Evangeline Paligan Amaya, health officer of Barangay Loacan said 46 cases of dengue were reported in the area for the first six months this year.
    Amaya added that the clean-up drive was also held to prevent food and mouth diseases which is prevalent in the community.
    This reporter with three other mediamen were in the vicinity of Barangay Ucab 8:40 a.m. en route to Sition Luneta to cover said clean-up drive when the 7.0 magnitude quake  struck.
    After a few minutes when the situation settled down, and the newsmen travelled on to cover the activity noting Itogon is a landslide prone area-with some areas declared geo-hazard by the MGB.
    Arriving in Sitio Luneta  (9:30am), the newsmen witnessed  dozens of pocket miners braving “shocks" and continued clearing and  collecting  garbage which flowed down stream and hauled these to nearby garbage truck.
    A payloader acquired by LMA was also seen clearing the area.


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