Eight Aetas died in the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that shook parts of Luzon last April 22 but have not been included in the government list of casualties, an indigenous people’s group said.
The Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA) said at least eight Aetas, including minors, died in landslides in Porac and Floridablanca towns in Pampanga province due to the earthquake.
The group did not name the reported victims.
An April 26 report by CNN Philippines, however, said one child was killed in Barangay Nabuclod in Floridablanca town while three others (8-year old Landok Serrano, his father Berto Serrano and grandfather Bidong Laya) went missing during the quake.
In a press conference in Angeles City this morning, the CLAA complained that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council did not look into the plight of the Aetas—the indigenous peoples group in Central Luzon.
“[T]he NDRRMC just recorded a total of 18 deaths. Of the reported 18 deaths, five missing person cases, 243 wounded, from the 3,632 affected families or about 7,410 individuals…few or even none of it includes the indigenous people and their communities,” the CLAA in its press statement said.
The CLAA added that the Aetas are the most vulnerable sector in the region and the last to recover from disasters.
The group also bewailed that the Aetas have limited access to state resources, such as quick response and rescue teams when disasters strike.
In the press conference held at the Angeles City Youth Center, the CLAA expressed fears that more deaths may have occurred but remain unreported, especially in farflung indigenous communities.
The group also blamed president Rodrigo Duterte government for his apparent apathy for dismissing the number of deaths as “the barest minimum.”
“I’m not trying to belittle the problem. To me, it’s just maybe a few towns hard hit. Thank God that we have the barest minimum of deaths,” the President said at a situation briefing in San Fernando City, Pampanga two days after the quake.
CLAA chairperson Sonny Serrano said that the severity of the disaster effect of the earthquake may be linked directly to anti-environment projects “along every inch of the entire length of the Zambales mountain range.”
“In the uplands of Floridablanca for example, exploration and earthmoving activities along the ridges of Mount Cuadrado may have caused the weakened soil of the residents of Brgy. Nabuclod and other hard hit barangays of Floridablanca,” Serrano said.
In Porac, the introduction of alien tree species by the government’s National Greening Program and the existence of many quarry operations as well land conversion to roads and subdivision may have worsened the effects of the Earthquake, he added.
The CLAA also denounced Duterte’s “criminal negligence” in perpetuating more intensive environmental plunder of the entire Zambales mountain range under his government’s Build Build Build program, that may have worsened the effects of the earthquake. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)