Uit Philippine Star
20 February 2006
Green groups have accused the Philippine government of ignoring the threat of natural disasters after a massive landslide wiped a village off the map, leaving some 1,400 people dead. The disaster in Guinsaugon in Saint Bernard town in Southern Leyte is the latest in a series costing thousands of lives, said Von Hernandez, campaigns director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
"The combined threats of destructive logging and climate change should be taken seriously by the Philippine government," he said in a statement. "The scale and frequency of similar tragedies in the past should have, long before, already provoked the government into action to address the seemingly perennial problems of floods and landslides at the source.
" Experts say the latest landslide on Leyte - which sits on a major geological fault and is in the path of most major typhoons - was a geographical accident waiting to happen. Since 1991, four deadly landslides or floods have struck the region. In November that year, flash floods and landslides killed about 5,000 people in Ormoc City. A series of landslides on the adjacent tiny island of Panaon claimed about 200 lives in December 2003. Afterwards, the government's Mines and Geosciences Bureau launched a geo-hazard mapping project on southern Leyte.
But just last week a landslide killed about 20 people in Sogod town, to the west of Guinsaugon. And on Friday disaster struck the village itself.
President Arroyo's administration "conveniently blames Mother Nature as the culprit of these landslides," said Clemente Bautista, coordinator of green group Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment. Bautista said the government had identified the area as landslide-prone back in 2003 but failed to act on its own recommendations such as massive reforestation and the need for an early warning system.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales said the real reason for the "terrible tragedy is that forests have been badly denuded and no serious replanting has been done.