MACO, Davao de Oro (MindaNews / 12 February)—The plight of a college student, whose father is among those missing after the tragic landslide in the mining village of Masara here on February 6, is further complicated by concerns about her education and the health issues of her mother and younger brother.
Bea Esmero, a third-year government scholar pursuing an education degree at Central Mindanao University in Maramag, Bukidnon, finds herself in a precarious situation. Her father, Renato, the family’s primary provider, works as a grade control operator driving heavy machinery at the mining site.
Bea is the eldest of four siblings. Her father has made sure her education and basic needs are met. But since the landslide, Bea’s future hangs in uncertainty.
Her worries escalate as her mother battles illness, having recently been hospitalized in Tagum due to breathing difficulties, while her younger brother grapples with lupus.
A colleague informed Bea that her father and his supervisor attempted to escape through a window during the landslide but were engulfed before they could make it to safety. While the supervisor’s body has been recovered, her father remains missing.
“I hope they won’t stop looking, so we could pay respects for him in a wake, and give him a proper burial,” Bea said in the vernacular, adding that she has already accepted the fate of her father.
Eng. Ferdinand Dobli, community relations chief of Apex Mining Co., Inc. (AMCI), assures Bea of support during this trying time.
The company pledges to cover her living expenses at school, equivalent to the standard tuition fees of private colleges, acknowledging the loss of breadwinners like Bea’s father.
Dobli acknowledges previous landslides in the area but emphasizes that the recent disaster was unforeseeable. The AMCI administration building and active mining operations are several kilometers away from the affected site, although it falls within their exploration area.
Despite assertions from experts regarding the role of vegetation in landslide prevention, opinions vary. Beverly Brebante from MGB-Davao Geosciences Division attributes the landslide to heavy rains and steep slopes despite the vegetation cover.
However, Elmer Luzon, general manager of San Francisco Water District (SFWD), stresses the need for robust forestation efforts and slope protection measures to avert such disasters.
He cited a model in the 1,652-hectare Mt. Magdiwata Watershed where 75 percent of hardwood species of trees sturdily stood ground to hold cascading waters from heavy rains and prevented landslides.
He said the adequate forest with deeply-rooted hardwood trees aside from clearing of natural waterways to prevent natural water damming and slope protection intervention by installing gabions is the way to prevent landslides.
Apart from this intervention, Luzon said SFWD forest rangers are deployed daily to check on the condition of the watershed, aside from chasing illegal tree cutters.
Mt. Magdiwata now has 90 percent of forest cover where it used to be only 45 percent more than 20 years back due to illegal logging. SFWD has been in the forefront of protecting it after it was declared permanent watershed through Presidential Proclamation 282 by then President Fidel Ramos. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)