CALAUAG, Quezon -- Tension among residents in this coastal town was temporarily relieved following the stoppage of the treasure hunting operation beneath an old house in Bgy. Poblacion 2, here, where a very loud explosion occurred last Sunday.
Town police commander Chief Insp. Reynaldo Reyes, however, said the stoppage of the operation is also temporary and can resume anytime as they have no legal basis to stop it.
“At the moment, there is a status quo situation on the part of the treasure hunting operator but once it resumes its operation, we cannot do anything unless we are given legal basis to stop it,” said Reyes in a phone interview.
Reyes said the operation stopped after the explosion last Sunday as nine of the 11 workers finally decided to quit and leave the town for fear of being buried inside the 420-meter deep pit or killed by the fuming residents.
Aside from the two remaining workers, Reyes said there are four carpenters who are now repairing the falling ceilings and cover of the power generator.
Residents of the said village and adjacent villages have expressed fear for their safety following the thundering blast which resulted in the shaking of the ground and emission of dark smoke.
“Ramdam na ramdam po namin ang pagyanig ng lupa dahil sa lakas ng pagsabog na ’yon at labis kaming nag-aalala sa aming kaligtasan,” said a village resident, adding some parts of the roads even suffered cracks.
The populated village is within the center of the town proper, where treasure hunting has been operational beneath an old house owned by one Katherine Nubla, who is also the operator of the treasure hunting.
Rumors have it that six workers died during the explosion but Reyes said they are still validating the veracity of the information.
The police chief said that based on their initial investigation, it appears that one of the five submersible water pumps malfunctioned and exploded beneath the pit.
He said there are five layers in the tunnel and each layer has one water pump.
Asked what is being dug in the pit, Reyes said, “It could be gold bars as part of the Yamashita treasure, but we don’t have official information about it.”
It was learned that Quezon 4th district Rep. Angelina ‘Helen’ Tan and town Mayor Luisito Visorde have been coordinating with the concerned National Museum officials who issued the treasure hunting permit for its immediate cancellation.
Many residents in the village told this writer that despite their appeal to the office of Quezon Gov. David Suarez to do something about the problem, no action has been undertaken. They said the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board, which is under the Office of the Governor, is not doing anything to address the problem.
“Huwag na sana nilang hintayin na may mga mamatay muna dito sa aming bayan bago sila kumilos,” said a disgusted resident, one of the residents gathering signatures for a petition against the operation.