P4.5-B class suit filed

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A P4.5-billion class suit was filed against the Cebu provincial government, the local government of Naga and the major mining corporations operating near the landslide-hit area of Naga recently.

At least 39 residents of the City of Naga who claimed they were victims of the 20 September landslide included Apo Land and Quarry Corp. (ALQC), Cemex Holdings Philippines Inc., Apo Cement Corp. and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Region 7 in the charge.

They claimed these private companies and government agencies should be held liable for the avalanche that killed at least 78 people.

Environmental Lawyer Benjamin Cabrido said they filed the suit in behalf of the next generations of Filipinos. The landslide, he said, was not brought by “natural causes” as claimed by the MGB-7.

The group also cited that on 29 August, Naga Mayor Kristine Chiong had issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against ALQC following reports by residents of Barangays Sindulan and Tagaytay about unusual cracks in the land.

But on the same day, MGB brushed these off as a natural phenomenon and not critical to pose danger to the communities. The MGB report prompted Chiong to lift the CDO on 6 September.

But Chiong, in a news conference, admitted to have received reports on 11 September about widening cracks on the land and sought another MGB opinion.

Cabrido explained that the damage suit is seeking: P1 million in damages each for 78 fatalities and six missing individuals (P84 million); P1 million each for 57 houses damaged by the landslide (P57 million); P100,000 each for seven injured persons who joined the complainants (P700,000) and P500,000 for each of the 8,262 displaced individuals (P4.1 billion).

It also included P500,000 as moral damages for each family of 84 casualties and missing persons (P42 million); P200,000 as exemplary damages each for families of the 84 fatalities and missing persons; P500 million in rehabilitation fund; and P1 million in legal fees.

Chiong, meanwhile, denied withholding cash assistance to the landslide victims because some joined the class suit.

“No checks have been signed because I’m in Manila for a meeting. Processing of the financial humanitarian assistance to the 444 families within the delineated critical zone nearest to the landslide body is on-going as well as their option for relocation,” she said.

She added “I have met with these 444 families to present the assistance and relocation that the city government has prepared for them. This assistance is for all families affected regardless of the filing of any case against the city.”

A P100,000 check is expected to be released to each family affected by the landslide.

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