This is not really about me, but about the people I meet, the places I visit and the stories I want to share.

Monday, November 07, 2005


A small town of 40 000 people, mostly migrants from Surigao, Agusan and Cebu - all dependent on gold. Small-scale mining has been their major industry since the gold-rush in the area in the 80’s. Diwalwal literally means lawit because old folks say when you reach the place diwawal na ang dila mo or lawit na ang dila mo.
Diwalwal is a relatively quiet town but recently caught the headlines when an estimated 25 miners died on October 25 inside a tunnel allegedly due to toxic gas suffocation.

This is where it all started – a tunnel owned by the family of Monakyo, Compostela Valley Mayor Joel Brillantes. Although their business is qualified as small-scale mining, JB Mining is a major player in the industry. It has an estimated 200 employees. But it lost at least 17 miners (total number of bodies recovered as of November 4 2005) although people in the area believe there are around 50 miners inside the tunnel at the time of the accident.

Baranggay officials are seeking for an investigation of the incident. Mt. Diwata Bgy. Capt. Franco Tito even wrote the President through Compostela Valley Rep. Manuel “Waykurat” Zamora. Tito believes there was foul-play in the incident. He says there are at least two possibilitites:
- cyanide poisoning done by putting cyanide on top of an old tire set on fire inside the tunnel of JB Mining Corporation.
- blasting inside the tunnel. Tito does not deny that blasting is still practiced inside the tunnels which poses a great danger to miners.“Hindi naman namin tinatanggi dito na nagpapasabog kami, ang sinasabi ng gobyerno ilegal kami, ang hiling namin, sana tulungan kaming maging legal,” he says.

Posted by Picasa CLEAN-UP TIME
After the incident, the company suspended its operations. But employees were seen cleaning at the entrance of the tunnel. JB Mining Corporation Vice President for Operations Reynaldo Espanola says “kailangan pa ring kumita ng mga minero namin, kaya kahit paano maglilinis na lang muna sila para may kitain sila kahit stop-operations muna kami sa loob.”
JB Mining also says they are willing to undergo investigation. But the company claims the highly probable cause of the accident is a pocket of natural gas which the miners could have encroached upon. Espanola also claims they have given financial assistance to the families of the victims.

They may have been up there in the mountains, but they also want their voices to be heard. After our report on TV Patrol that President Arroyo has called for an investigation, the people of Diwalwal became furious. They brought the remains of Victor Condeza in front of the baranggay hall. Condeza is a miner who died in another tunnel where toxic gases allegedly leaked from JB Mining’s Sunshine Tunnel. The residents say they do not want Malacanang’s sympathy. They want concrete action from the President whose policy on mining, they say, will eventually kill them. They add, if the President continues with her policy, they will all end up just like Condeza – but this time, dying out of hunger.

Posted by Picasa ALVAREZ FORMULA
Named after former Natural Resources Sec. Heherson Alvarez, this is the proposal of Diwalwal residents offering 17.5 per cent of what they will earn from operating inside Victory Tunnel – the largest tunnel in Diwalwal which has remained off-limits to small-scale miners. Unfortunately, the proposal was junked by the government.

Posted by Picasa VICTORY TUNNEL
This tunnel is under the control of the government through the Natural Resources Mining Development Corporation or the NRMDC. The agency is headed by Art Disini whom I have called up while the residents were protesting in front of the baranggay hall. Disini says the government has plans of putting up a large-scale mining industry at Victory Tunnel He says it can offer jobs to skilled workers in Diwalwal. But the problem is, they can only accommodate 1 500 employees. But what will happen to the other miners who have been dependent on small-scale mining for the last twenty years? Disini says “hindi naman talaga sila taga-Diwalwal, mga migrants na ang karamihan sa kanila.”
The NRMDC says they are still on the exploration stage inside Victory Tunnel. But Mt. Diwata Baranggay Captain Franco Tito is asking, why are there sacks of rocks already piled outside the tunnel? He says “alam na nilang may ginto sa loob, tinitingnan lang nila kung magkano talaga ang halaga ng ginto doon.”

Posted by Picasa ABANTERO
Most of us think that workers in the industry are all called “miners”. But in Diwalwal, there are two classifications of miners: one group is called abanteros – the ones doing the actual work of mining inside the tunnels. They are actually the highly-skilled ones who may be hired by the government when large-scale mining goes full blast in Diwalwal.

Posted by Picasa ATRASERO
It’s weird that Abanteros do not want to carry the rocks they have mined inside the tunnels. The atraseros are the ones who transport the sacks of rocks out of the tunnel. It’s hard to imagine they are subjecting themselves to so much danger and yet the government seems to neglect them.

Posted by Picasa POUND SOME MORE
After the rocks are taken out of the tunnels, they are broken down into smaller pieces using a hammer.

Posted by Picasa BALL MILL
Scattered all around town are ball mills, these equipment are used to process the rocks into a powdery substance called “waste”. When these “wastes” are mixed with water, dusts of gold will turn up after a process called “panning” is done.

Posted by Picasa DIWALWAL TEAM
We were all smiles in this photo taken in front of our satellite dish at the baranggay hall. Yes my team and I were happy because at this time we were told by our office that we can go back to Manila on November 4.
But on hindsight, I felt bad having to leave the people of Diwalwal behind. After living with them for eight days, I can’t help but think of their future. My team had a hard time doing this coverage, we had to sleep on old cots inside the conference room of the baranggay hall, take motorcycles that run like hell, take a bath under almost freezing temperatures and at one point, did NOT take a bath for three straight days. But come to think of it, the situation of the people of Diwalwal is actually worse.
It is a fact that gold is running out in Diwalwal and the people are setting their sights on Victory Tunnel, where supposedly 18 billion dollars worth of gold is just waiting to be mined. But after the mining conference in Manila last month, Diwalwal residents expect that government officials and foreign investors are the only ones who will benefit from the wealth of Mt. Diwata.
Baranggay Captain Franco Tito’s words stuck in my mind: “Pag ang tao dito nagutom, hindi malayong sugurin na namin ang Victory Tunnel.” If that happens, that would mean civilians fighting soldiers of the Philippine Army, who are tasked to guard the tunnel. There are reportedly hundreds of lose firearms in Diwalwal.
For now, residents will continue to live dangerously depending on small-scale mining in Diwalwal. Yes they may all be migrants in the area, but is this enough reason for the government to take them for granted when Victory Tunnel finally opens its arms to foreign companies?


Blogger Lindsy said...

Back to normal blogging
Raya came quitely for most folks in Kuala Lumpur, the 'balik kampung' exodus having pretty much cleared the city of it's normal inhabitants.
Find out how to buy and sell anything, like things related to highway construction project on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like highway construction project!

3:04 PM

Blogger Lagalag Na Pinoy said...

Nakakainis. Nakakapangumbaba. Nakakagalit sa Gobyerno ang pagbabasa nito. Actually, galit na nga ako sa Gobyernong Glo bago ko pa mabasa ito. Haay...NGayon di lang yata galit ang nararamdaman ko. Di ko na alam kung anong damdamin meron ako. Gusto kong malaman kung anong damdamin ni Gloria Arroyo sa mga isyung ito. Pero, teka...meron nga ba syang damdamin?

11:49 PM

Blogger dreyfus said...

am currently working on a research on the impact of the intervention made for the child laborers in mt. diwata. i too heard the harrowing story of the people that died in the tunnel. with the estimated population of 40,000 (and still is increasing) and the strong pressure to bring in large scale multinational mining companies, i believe, the rivers of diwalwal will no longer be murky from the "waste" rather it will be crimson red.

7:42 AM


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