GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Residents here who have resisted relocation for more than 30 years now are left with no other choice but to leave the shores where many of them practically lived all their lives.
43-year-old Reynante Desidorio said he was born in Purok Tinago, a community of informal settlers in Barangay South Dadiangas, and has not known any other work but to supervise the loading and unloading of copra and other agricultural products from Balut Island in a makeshift wooden jetty near his house.
But even that quay will soon disappear if the underwater hole continues to eat into the shores and gobble their homes.
Disaster officials are still puzzled why a deep hole – or a suspected sinkhole as the local TV stations here are reporting – has suddenly appeared.
Desidorio said a payaw (FAD or fish aggregating device) deployed some 50 meters away from the shore disappeared on Wednesday at the same time white bubbles emerged from the bottom.
He said a pumpboat operator tried to measure the depth of the hole. After dropping its anchor, only 20 dipa (fathoms) were left of the 350 fathoms of rope.
He fears their homes could collapse as the stilt posts of their houses now appear to be already on the rim of the hole.
From an aerial photograph taken Friday, the hole appears to be a collapsed wall that extended more than 100 meters to the sea. It is now deep blue from above and is distinctively different from the adjoining shores whose bed of sand and silt is unmistakenly black.
The city disaster risk reduction and management council (CDRRMC) said it cannot yet determine what caused the hole.
CDRRMC head Dr Agraprino Dacera said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau will not conduct ground penetrating radar and sounding survey until next week.
Disaster officials have already ordered families living in the area to seek temporary shelter in nearby Ireneo Santigao High School.
On Friday, February 20, General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera met with some 100 families of Tinago and offered immediate relocation for 47 of them whose houses are in imminent danger of collapsing.
“We have set aside 3 hectares of land in Mabuhay for those who are already ordered out of the area. You will each be given 75 square meters,” he told the affected residents.
He assured them that the city will no longer allow any structure to be built in their former homes which will soon be demolished.
“The main priority here is to protect them from danger kasi nasa danger zone na talaga sila,” Rivera said.
If the hole keeps growing bigger, it could affect more than 1,000 families living in the area that stretches more than a kilometer east across the public market. – Rappler.com