ALQC respects victims’ decision to file class suit
Apo Land and Quarry Corp. (ALQC) has said that it will respect the decision of some landslide victims in filing a P4.5 billion environmental class suit against the company and five others over the massive landslide in Barangay Tinaan, City of Naga last September 20.
In a statement sent to CEBU DAILY NEWS by ALQC representative Chito Maniago, the company said that it will answer all the allegations thrown against them in the proper forum.
“We find it very unfortunate, however, that personalities behind this action decided to pursue this case despite the clear finding of DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) technical experts that the landslide is a natural phenomenon and not caused by quarry or mining operations of APO Land & Quarry Corporation,” the statement said.
ALQC said they will stand by the findings of the geologists from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Central Office who assessed the landslide incident in Barangay Tinaan, City of Naga.
MGB chief geologist Liza Manzano, during the presentation of their findings last October 22, said that the landslide was “unique” and was likely caused by four factors including soil characteristics, previous earthquakes, climate and human activities like quarrying and urbanization.
“Any activity that you do to change the landscape of the mountain, including quarry operations, is contributory to the incident,” she said after the presentation.
But Manzano also said that a separate team from MGB that conducted another inspection ruled that ALQC, which operates in Barangay Tinaan, did not commit any malpractice.
The camp of environmental lawyer Benjamin Cabrido, who leads the counsels of the class suit, however, maintained that the tragedy could have been prevented had ALQC observed proper procedures in their quarry.
The suit cited ALQC, its sister company Apo Cement Corp. and mother company Cemex Holdings Philippines, Inc. for malpractice in their quarry operations that led to the tragedy which claimed the lives of at least 78 people.
The other respondents are the city government of Naga, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-7) and Cebu Provincial government.
The class suit, filed by at least 36 landslide victims, demands a P500 million rehabilitation fund for the “healing” of ground zero; P500,000 as moral damages for each of the families of the 84 casualties and missing persons (P42 million); P200,000 as exemplary damages for each of the families of the 84 fatalities and missing persons; and P1 million for legal fees.
It also asks for P1 million in damages for each of the 78 fatalities and six missing individuals (P84 million); P1 million each for the 57 houses damaged by the landslide (P57 million); P100,000 for each of the seven injured persons (P700,000); and P500,000 for each of the 8,262 displaced individuals (P4.1billion).
If the case succeeds, all landslide victims will receive the monetary demands for the damages, regardless if they filed the case or not, since it is a class suit.
Meanwhile, former Naga City Mayor Valdemar Chiong vehemently denied allegations that he threatened evacuees housed at the Enan Chiong Activity Center (ECAC) that they will not be given financial assistance by the city should they assist the filing of the class suit.
Evacuees in ECAC also testified that they could not recall seeing the former mayor visit the evacuation recently.
Theresa Alforque, 66, an evacuee at ECAC, claimed that it is unthinkable for Chiong to threaten them.
“Wa gyud na mahitabo na si Mayor (Valdemar) Chiong nang hasi diri, bisan ka usa lang, bisan gamay lang,” Alforque said.
Chiong said that he will definitely file a case against whoever made the allegation.
Kimberly Monterde, one of the initiators of the case, told CDN that she received calls from some landslide victims at 7 a.m. on Monday reporting that Chiong allegedly went to ECAC and announced the names of those who participated in the case.