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DENR asked to probe Surigao Sur flooding that killed 5.

THE Philippine-Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) on Thursday threw its support behind the call of Bishop Nereo Odchimar of the Diocese of Tandag for a thorough investigation into the recent flooding in areas of Cantilan and Carrascal in Surigao del Sur.

The massive flooding occurred after Typhoon Basyang on February 13, when several houses were swept away and rice farms destroyed. Five people, including children, were reported killed.

The incident prompted the Diocese of Tandag to release a pastoral letter highlighting the 'untold suffering' of those affected by the flood.

PMPI said Cantilan and Carrascal are home to mining companies that 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 of these mining companies were suspended by then-Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, but were back in operations right after the rejection of Lopez by the Commission on Appointments (CA), the group said.

According to the pastoral 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 on their path.

'Could the reason be due to massive mining operations that denuded the naturally forested mountains and watersheds of Cantilan and Carrascal?' Odchimar asked.

A social and development network of civil-society organizations, peoples' organizations, non-governmental organizations and faith-based organizations, PMPI joins the call of its partner-communities and the bishop of the Diocese of Tandag for an investigation into the 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.

'The 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 becames a primordial concern of the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] 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 in a statement.

'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,' she added.

PMPI also called for the creation of a multistakeholder, multidisciplinary investigation team to investigate not just on the logging, but also on the mining activities in the affected areas.

'We call on the DENR to conduct a thorough investigation and exact accountability from the culprits whose activities caused the denudation of forests and watersheds of these municipalities,' the group said.

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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 22, 2018
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