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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesSaturday, July 30, 2011
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Stop treasure hunting,
La Libertad cops order

Philippine National Police authorities in La Libertad, Negros Oriental, have ordered the immediate stoppage of alleged treasure-hunting activities inside a residential structure in Barangay San Jose, following rising concern over public safety and possible violations of the law.

The move came just under a week after neighbors had filed complaints at the police station that they lost water supply after their deep wells and water pumps had dried up, most likely due to the ongoing excavation at the purported treasure-hunting site.

La Libertad police chief, Sr. Insp. Errol Besario, said that upon the instructions of Mayor Lawrence Limkaichong, an ocular inspection was conducted on Tuesday at the residence of a certain Edna Alpuerto in Sitio Dalakit, Barangay San Jose.

The police discovered that a huge hole, measuring about 30 feet in depth and with an opening large enough to accommodate at least two people, had been carved out of the concrete flooring inside Alpuerto's house, Besario said.

Drain hoses and bamboo poles used as makeshift scaffolds were visible inside the hole while at the bottom of the pit, water had started to seep in, as seen in photos posted on Facebook by concerned individuals who called on officials to act on the alleged illegal mining activity.

Besario said the homeowner, Edna Alpuerto, admitted that somebody with a “scanner” had visited them one day and told them that “black diamonds” could be found underneath her house. The man's name could not be verified as yet, but police are trying to trace the identities of the people behind what could be a violation of national laws on treasure hunting, Besario said.

He also said that an engineer from Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, was among those who had allegedly initiated the “treasure-hunting”, which could have been going on for weeks now.

Further police investigation showed this is not the first time that a “treasure-hunting” activity was carried out at the same house, Besario said, quoting Alpuerto as saying that there was also another group that had previously asked to engage in the same operations.

Alpuerto also told police investigators that stories from elderly family members reveal that the house was sitting on an old former cemetery, Besario added. Family members had also recovered back then what could be historical artifacts like old jars and vases.

Besario said that since Tuesday, the “treasure-hunting” activity had already been stopped while cops are being deployed to regularly check on the Alpuerto residence while further investigation is being conducted.

He also disclosed that he had informed Alpuerto that under national laws, treasure hunters must secure a permit from the National Heritage Institute.*JFP



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