5 Dela Cerna

Police Regional Office spokesperson Police Chief Investigator Andrea dela Cerna during the AFP-PNP press conference on Wednesday, March 2. (Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY — A non-government organization believed that at least 40 people were killed during the mining tragedy in Barangay Mt. Diwata, Monkayo town Compostela Valley on Saturday night, February 27.

The non-government organization Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc (EILER) said the figures are way above the estimated number of casualties reported in the media.

The group also called for an independent probe on the mining tragedy that resulted to the death of at least four miners, with three other miners missing the Australia Tunnel  in in Sitio 1, Australia Tunnel, Purok 3, Barangay Mt. Diwata.

As of Monday, the official report released by the Punong Barangay of Barangay Mt. Diwata, Pedro J. Samillano, Jr. states that four died among the 13 casualties after a flash flood occurred in the Australia Tunnel.

Police Chief Inspector (PCI) Andrea dela Cerna, public information officer of Police Regional Office 11 of the Philippine National Police said the tunnel is now undergoing clearing operations.

“They have to pump at least two meters daw po para mapasok nila, kasi meron daw pong part doon na sinking so medyo malalim talaga. Dahil po ang area na to is below sea-level yung lalim nya no, kaya medyo mahirap po (They have to pump at least two meters of water to enter the tunnel. There is a part of the tunnel called ‘sinking’ since it is below sea-level so the operation is difficult),” Dela Cerna told the members of the press here in a press conference Wednesday, March 2. Dela Cerna said as of Wednesday, miners Bryan Monsoon, Roel Dacaldacal and Richard Monsoon are still missing.

The confirmed dead include miners Reymart Pegaret, Gilbert Bayot, and Reynante Gimeno, and a rescuer identified Ernesto Loquinia.

However, initial reports that EILER gathered from the ground state that at least 40 people – including some of the rescuers – were killed in the tragedy.

“This tragedy could be one major mining mishap in recent years. Since mining remains one of the most hazardous industries, stricter compliance to occupational health and safety provisions should be enforced and stricter monitoring by government authorities,” said Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, executive director of EILER.

EILER said the independent fact-finding mission should investigate implementation of occupational health and safety policies prescribed by law by the company, payment of minimum wages, employment of minor and membership of miners to the Social Security System.

The labor NGO conducted a baseline study on the incidence of child labor in Mt. Diwata in year 2014 and one in every five households in the community has child labor. EILER has been operating a learning center for child laborers in Mt. Diwata, which helps child miners to go back to formal school.

“It is not impossible that a child miner could be one of the victims of the recent tragedy in Mt. Diwata. Employers and operators of the mines could easily hide the real ages of child miners just to allow them to work inside the mines. We hope that no child miner was part of this tragedy,” she said.

Escresa said their survey among miners in Mt. Diwata in 2015 also showed that most of them are not members of SSS. “The lives of miners in Mt. Diwata are very vulnerable. They are exposed to physical hazards, and are not even covered by any form of social protection,” she said.

“Life is cheap in Mt. Diwata. There are no sufficient health facilities when tragedies like this happen. The company, employer, DOLE and the local government should be made accountable for this tragedy. If not, impunity will continue to reign and workers lives will continuously be endangered,” said Escresa. (davaotoday.com)

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