“Yung landslide was not caused by mining kasi walang mining operation kung saan nanggaling yung debris materials,” said Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB-CAR) Director Faye Apil on Wednesday, September 19.
(The landslide was not caused by mining because there were no mining operations where the debris materials came from.)
Apil elaborated that the area was marked as very hazardous due to fractured rocks and steep slopes.
She also pointed out that rainfall in the area during Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) was at 970 millimeters for 12 hours, while average rainfall for September was only 570 millimeters.
“With or without the mining, magla-landslide 'dyan. Nagkaroon ng landslide hindi dahil sa mining, kundi sa texture ng lupa and at the same time yung slope niya, very steep yung slope niya,” said Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.
(With or without the mining, landslides will happen there. The landslide happened not because of mining, but due to the texture of the soil and the slope, it was very steep.)
However, Antiporda clarified that the deaths were still a matter of mining, as people lived in the area for extracting minerals.
Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso also shared a similar view.
"I cannot say that the erosion is caused by some operation of mining, but it was truly caused by the heavily saturated soil. It was force majeure, because it was heavy rains that occurred for almost two months that caused the soil to be heavily saturated and caused it also to collapse."
As of press time, 46 have been confirmed dead and 60 more are missing in the Itogon.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu insisted that they “did their part” and warned the local government of the dangers of living in the area.
The land above the scene of the tragedy is owned by Benguet Corp. (BC) which had no mining activity.
However, BC was being accused of encouraging small-scale mining operations in Itogon.
Miners were operating illegally in an area where extracting activities have been suspended since 1990.
The company has denied the allegations.
Cimatu already instructed MGB personnel to investigate whether Benguet Corp. or the local government had responsibility over the incident.
Read more stories from Rappler's coverage of the Itogon landslide: