Issue of November 4, 2018

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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Natonin hit by worst landslide in decades
by Harley F. Palangchao

PARBUSTERS -- Participants of the monthly Baguio Country Club golf tournament are growing in number steadily with many young and young at heart wanting to be part of the action. The event saw former junior golfer Chester Calpotura topping the event. -- Harley Palangchao

NATONIN, Mountain Province – Government and private rescuers and volunteers are still searching for more than 20 missing persons buried alive when a huge mountain slide that totally destroyed four structures of the Department of Public Works and Highways at Barangay Banawel during Typhoon Rosita at around 4 p.m. of Oct. 30.

Dozens of lives have been saved by the suspension of work in government offices when Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. issued the order on Oct. 29 when Typhoon Rosita was posing threats to some Cordillera provinces.

With the order, the more than 50 regular workers and more than a hundred job orders and laborers of the 2nd district of the Mountain Province District Engineering Office did not report for work. Only the laborers of private contractors doing expansion works of the DPWH buildings and some residents who evacuated to the building were at the site when the landslide occurred.

“In just a matter of seconds, the buildings were gone after huge rocks and loosened soil damaged and carried the concrete structures downstream,” said Ryan Polic-ew, 27, who survived the landslide along with his younger brother Jordan by running to the highway.

DPWH worker Kaino-an Changiwan, 23, told the Courier that she and her co-workers who are not residents of Natonin, were supposed to proceed and seek refuge at the DPWH offices on Oct. 30 but landslides between Poblacion to Banawel prevented them from proceeding to their offices where they were supposed to stay overnight before travelling to their hometowns the following day.

The DPWH offices are located some four kilometers away from Poblacion, where some workers who are not residents of Natonin are renting houses.

“By God’s grace we are safe. We were supposed to be in those structures some hours before the incident,” said Changiwan, a resident of Bontoc, Mountain Province.

The DPWH offices began construction in 2012 and started to operate as a second district of MPDEO in 2016. The workers are supposed to celebrate their foundation day later this month.

Sources said contrary to information being circulated in social media, the landslide was not caused by mining activities. The DPWH structures were likewise certified to be stable prior to the incident.

Close to P70 million was allocated so far for the construction of the DPWH offices in staggered basis.

As of Nov. 2, 12 cadavers were recovered while more than 20 are still reported missing.

The military, police, various risk reduction and management councils are leading the search, rescue, and retrieval operations with help from volunteers and paramedics from various government and private groups.

The Philippine Air Force through the Tactical Operations Group 1 and the police brought K-9 dogs capable of sniffing survivors and cadavers. PAF is also helping in relief assistance.

Meanwhile, eight of the 12 cadavers were identified in the list of the Mountain Province Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office as Juanito Longan, Virginia Catet, John Tinmakcheg, Benito Longan, Joel Arevalo, Junjun Laron, Gregorio Castro, and Elberto Botco.

The names of still reported missing as of Nov. 2 are Reynaldo Ngilin, Eddie Galahaya, Reggue Tayag, Jerry Epan, Jonathan Ngilin, Palichang Limson, Ober Orchinon, Rolando Cristobal, Noel Alvester, Renato Ayung, Garry Hecyawan, Juben Buccan, Obaldo Guihawan, German Bonhian, Esther Galong, Jerry Arenas, Randy Sayod, Inocencio Gollingoy, Coyogan Catet, and Rogel Allubong.

With food supplies for rescuers becoming scarce, those who wish to donate food provisions may contact Chiyawan at 0908-865-9322.

Several families in nearby Paracelis are also in need of relief assistance. Those who wish to reach out to them may contact the town’s MDRRMO hotline at 0921-972-7276.

Coming from Baguio, travel to Natonin’s ground zero via Paracelis from the Isabela route will be at least nine to 10 hours.

QUICK RESPONSE -- A rescue chopper of the Philippine Air Force through its Tactical Operations Group 1 brought the first two K9 dogs to help in finding survivors and cadavers at the ground zero of a huge landslide that damaged four structures of DPWH 2nd District at the height of Typhoon Rosita in Banawel, Natonin, Mountain Province. -- Harley Palangchao

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