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MGB: Declare Benguet village a danger zone


Updated June 22, 2009 12:00 AM [ philstar.com ]

MANKAYAN, Benguet, Philippines – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is urging that a “sinking” village in this mining town be declared a danger zone.

This, as a 50-meter area in the so-called Aurora strip sank at the height of monsoon rains last June 5, engulfing at least 10 houses.

If declared a danger zone, families living in 20 houses precariously situated in the subsidence area have to be relocated, together with the Mankayan National High School and Mankayan Elementary School.

At least a hectare more is expected to sink, spelling a disaster, if not averted, for thousands of school children.

Gov. Nestor Fongwan has ordered a deeper investigation into the sinking incidents in this town, which has hosted the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. for over 75 years now.

A recent MGB investigation after the June 5 sinking showed that the area is prone to ground movement, just as other geologically hazardous areas in the Cordillera region are.

Engineer Augustin Balliang said the geologic structure and the crisscrossing fault lines below the schools and other areas here are prone to subsidence, especially during downpours.

But the University of the Philippines’ National Institute for Geological Studies, according to Fongwan, found the maze of abandoned mine tunnels to have aggravated the geological make-up of the precarious soil, hence the continuous ground movement.

But Lepanto chief legal officer Benedicto Carantes said the company “has nothing to do with this sinking.”

“Lepanto is mining 1,000 meters below Mankayan,” he said.

Quoting the company’s geologists, Carantes said, “The hardened clay below the schools was loosened by the rains.”

Fongwan said the different findings have prompted the provincial government to seek further scientific studies to have a conclusive view as to what is causing the sinking.

Fongwan has instructed the municipal disaster coordinating council to make an actual count of the households and villagers affected. – Artemio Dumlao

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