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Even a little drilling tears mountain apart

MIDSALIP (Mabuhay) : A small landslide sent water, mud and rock rushing down the mountain near Guinabot Midsalip in the Mt. Pinukis range when heavy rains fell prior to Typhoon Pablo striking Zamboanga del Sur in December last year.

Local people believe that the slide was caused by a buildup of water in underground cavities, which have resulted from drilling exploration work being carried out by the Chinese-owned Hua Ming Mineral Resources Corporation, whose personnel are being accommodated in a home owned by the local mayor, Leonida Angcap.

Three people who passed near the landslide only a few hours before the water and mud began to gush, reported to Father Sean Martin that they could hear water gurgling underground.

Father Martin, a long time missionary to Mindanao, told Mabuhay that they were lucky they were not there when the water burst through the earth’s surface, which because of the stripping of vegetation, could not hold back the pressure built up by the water.

He added that although the original landslide was only about one or two feet wide, the gouge has gradually got bigger, and pictures taken on January 23 show that a hollow has appeared that is big enough for a carabao to fall into.

“It is very deep,” the Irish priest says. “The fear is that another big section of the mountainside is going to slide if the rain persists. Specualtion has it that the drilling has shifted the waterbeds in the mountain.”

He added that the drilling has already affected the quality of the soil and the water in the rivers, which he described as highly serious, as the local Subaanen people farm and fish, and the whole area is a rich food-producing basket.

“There were many fish in the rivers, as there were no chemicals to poison them,” he said. “The land was fertile. You planted a small bucket of maize by hand and had enough good maize to feed your family for a few months. Now
the ground is hard and not so fertile.”

However, Father Martin is even less optimistic about the future. He is critical of the Regional Court in Aurora which allows the mining to go ahead, despite that fact that it is a watershed area and the Philippine constitution bans mining in such districts.

He also pointed out that the Supreme Court has issued a Writ of Kalikasan to protect the area from mining.

“Despite all this, the court in Aurora still issued the permit for exploratory drilling,” he lamented, “and despite the years of opposition from local people.”

He added that he believes that the mayor has promised the
Hua Ming Mineral Resources Corporation management that it can begin full scale mining after the election in May and is asking the Chinese company for millions of pesos to support her election campaign and pay off voters prior to polling day.

He explained that since Angcap cannot run for mayor again, she has put up her daughter for the office in her place and, if the mining company comes good with its pesos, she will fill the position of vice mayor.

Father Martin added that although local people are working hard to make the locals aware of what is going on, he fears it will only be effective if Angcap cannot get enough money for the bribes.