Philippines: Logging and Mining causing flash floods in S. Mindanao

Extensive logging and mining are being blamed for severe flash-floods
that submerged large parts of the southern island of Mindanao this
month. At least 35 people died, and farms and infrastructure suffered
severe damage, officials said. Of the island’s 20 provinces, the worst
affected were in the north, including Misamis Oriental, Lanao del
Norte, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Davao del Norte.
According to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), more
than 750,000 people had been affected by flash floods, landslides,
storm surges and accidents at sea due to heavy rains that battered the
area from 2 to 17 January. Over 200,000 people remain in evacuation
centres, while many areas have yet to be reached by aid agencies.

Many of the fatalities were in towns in the north-eastern section of
mineral-rich island, which bore the brunt of the flooding and where
forest cover has diminished over the past decade due to excessive
logging and mining. Eleven towns in the area remain under a “state of
calamity”, including Surigao City, Cagayan de Oro, and Gingoog City
where flood-waters in some parts reached 1.5m, officials said. “The
trees supposedly meant to hold rainwater including loose boulders or
rocks and soil from mountainsides are no longer there, so who’s going
to hold them?” asked regional disaster response chief Blanche
Gobenciong. “That is why areas that were low-lying were the ones
greatly affected by flooding and landslides.” The region’s more than
500,000ha of forests were fast being lost to illegal logging
concessions and mining operations, and there was now widespread
clamour to replace local environment officials, she said. Victoria
Plaza, a former log trader, said police officers were routinely bribed
to allow so-called “hot logs” or timber to pass through security
checkpoints, turning a blind eye to logging activities that were not
sustainable. “Protection money comes from big timber processing
plants. Controls are weak, and now we are paying for it,” Plaza said.
In the northern province of Misamis Oriental alone, at least 27
elementary schools and nine daycare centres have been destroyed by

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