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The photo was taken over the weekend, nine days after a landslide struck the upper portion of Shrine Hills along the Diversion Road in Davao City on October 5. The landslide prompted the city government to close a portion of the highway for several days. MindaNews photo by GG Bueno

Did Davao city miss the signs?

DAVAO City – The hills which the faithful associate with the saints needed to be protected, they said. The message was more than a prayer. It was a petition to the government. The year was 2006. At the time, to talk about matters related to climate change was barely taken seriously.

More than a decade later on Oct. 5, the earth fell. Authorities called it a “minor” landslide. But the morning after the incident, thousands of commuters and motorists faced an ordeal that would continue for days. A portion of Diversion Road was closed. Above, the loose earth continued to crumble.

And there were families, some 40 of them, who needed to find safer grounds. Their homes were within “highly dangerous zones.” Davao had been experiencing torrential rains last week. The downpour could be fatal.

The reason, Arnold Vandenbroeck said, was that the Shrine Hills is indeed prone to landslides.

“Who cares?” he wrote in a Facebook post, seemingly to scoff at inaction even after his group Save Davao Shrine Hills has had a strong basis to lobby government against permitting further developments at the area.

Save Davao Shrine Hills was formed in 2006 when communities at the area experienced flash floods. Since then, they signed petitions asking the government to turn Shrine Hills into a protected area.

In 2007, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) stood in favor of the group’s call when it declared the area as landslide-prone. Development on Shrine Hill’s slopes for high-end subdivisions continued, and urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap worried of an environmental destruction.

In 2011, the MGB released a geohazard study, saying that there should be no human intervention and development on its slopes as they are unstable. The results were presented to the City Council in the same year, said state geologist Beverly Brebante on Oct. 10. It was only in 2013 that the City Council designated Shrine Hills into a protected zone.

If the warnings have been told years ago, who missed the message?

‘The message in 2006 was loud and clear, but to respond to it is another story.

What we know for know is that efforts are being done so the city recovers from the landslide that preluded a monstrous traffic which the business community said have taken a toll on the local economy.

The DPWH said the clearing process at the landslide-affected area could extend for up to five days more. The city government has deployed buses for passengers who may be stranded “because of the current traffic situation.”

But Vandenbroeck wishes this is not the kind of reality the public now faces.

With some foresight, he said, “a lot could have been done a few years ago.” (


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