Malacañang on Monday said that small-scale mining operations in Mindanao were to blame for the death toll of Tropical Depression Agaton.
The number of fatalities from the first calamity to hit the country this year increased to 40 as of Sunday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the landslides in some areas of the region were worsened by illegal miners.
“This is an issue with small-scale mining and we’re trying to fix that situation,” Lacierda said, noting that the government has taken serious action against those against individuals and companies involved in illegal mining.
Meanwhile, Agaton weakened into a low-pressure area (LPA) before noon on Monday, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) reported.
Pagasa weather forecaster Fernando Cada said the cyclone weakened into an LPA because of its interactions with the cold winds of the northeast monsoon or “hanging amihan.”
As of 11 a.m. on Monday, the LPA was spotted some 400 kilometers (kms.) east southeast of Davao City or at 455 kms. east of General Santos City (6.3°N 129.3°E)
Cada said the LPA is expected to dissipate in the next 12 to 24 hours.
However, the weatherman noted that the LPA will continue to bring moderate to occasionally heavy rains and thunderstorms over Northern Mindanao, Caraga and Davao Region.
He said the intermittent rains brought by the LPA in the past days will likely increase risk of flash floods and landslides because of the saturated soil.
Meanwhile, public storm warning signals elsewhere were lowered.
The rest of Mindanao, Cada noted, will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rains.
Visayas and Luzon including Metro Manila will continue to have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with possible occurrence of light rains because of the cold northeast monsoon.
Agaton, a former LPA that lingered over the Visayas and Mindanao for a week before becoming a tropical depression on Friday, was the first cyclone of the country this year.