• 500 houses at risk near Benguet sinkhole

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    ITOGON, Benguet: At least 500 more houses in Barangay Virac in Itogon town are at risk of being gobbled up by a 150-meter long sinkhole that sank six houses during the onslaught of typhoon “Lando” last month.

    This came up as a joint probe of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), police, local government unit and Benguet Corporation started yesterday (Monday) for a comprehensive study.

    MGB-Cordillera director Engr. Faye Apil, said the location of the wreckage has not yet been ascertained as of last week since prior investigation has nothing conclusive as to the cause of the huge sinkhole.

    Itogon residents and officials, however, led by Mayor Victorio Palangdan blamed the diversion tunnels of the country’s oldest mining firm – Benguet Corporation – for the tragedy that forced 70 families flee.

    But BC insists it is too early to conclude that their diversion tunnels caused the huge sinkhole, the size of a half basketball court. Its lawyer, Ryan Solano, said their diversion tunnels were not breached that it is impossible to have caused the sinking. He also pointed out that most of Benguet is threatened by geologic hazards, so it is unfair to blame them.

    Earlier this year, Palangdan called for the temporary suspension of BC and its sub contractor ACMP citing proof that the firm’s facilities lacked structural integrity and stability that would make Itogon communities vulnerable to disaster once the rainy days started. He had cited the non-functional penstocks; the non-functional and partially renovated diversion tunnels; the lack of a spillway and it’s Tailings Storage Facility No. 2 already exceeding its allowable freeboard. These were his bases of proving BC’s negligence.

    Environment group “Amianan Salakniban” is pushing the environment department and the MGB to thoroughly investigate the mining community disaster and take into account the history of BC’s alleged neglect.

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