The Mines and Geosciences Bureau 7 confirmed that the supposed treasure hunting activity that led to a disaster in Boloc-boloc, Sibulan town in Negros Oriental, was illegal in the absence of permits from the National Museum of the Philippines.
The Region 7 office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier sent two personnel from MGB to investigate the alleged treasure hunting.
Engineers Edward Malahay and Ramsey Brillante of MGB-7 said, apart from the absence of permits from the National Museum of the Philippines, there was also no Environmental Compliance Certificate to support the digging.
The tunnel collapsed on Wednesday, burying three "treasure hunters". A fourth person survived the tragedy. Last night, the body of Algie Javier, 29, a former overseas Filipino worker who reportedly owned the gold detector used in the alleged treasure hunt and a resident of Barangay Isugan, Bacong town, was recovered while retrieval operations for the two others were still going on.
Malahay said the four men were not only digging/excavating a vertical “deep well” as initially claimed but they were also digging forward horizontally, thus endangering the lives of motorists aboveground because the tunnel cut across the road above it.
Malahay said mining and treasure hunting are two different things - mining is processing minerals that can be recovered from the soil while hunting is searching for hidden treasures.
“History will tell us that when the Japanese Army was withdrawing to the hinterlands of Negros Oriental, they had no more time to dig as deep as 50 feet under to hide their treasures,” he said.
The possibility is that these supposed treasures were buried in shallow grounds, he added.
Both Malahay and Brillante joined the rescuers in the retrieval operations that was ongoing as of press time.
Meanwhile, Councilor Jon Rey Abada of Sibulan said as far as the local government unit is concerned, they had no idea regarding the legality of the activity because permit for activities of this nature is secured from the national government.
Also, the area where the digging was done was “surrounded by canvass while the digging was done manually supposedly just for a deep well,” he said.
No one would have noticed anything unusual going on in the area as it just seemed normal that people were digging for a deep well, he added, noting that the site was in between two houses.*
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