Authorities were informed of landslide prone area in Itogon — Palace

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 24) —  Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday confirmed he was previously informed about the hazards in the landslide prone area of Itogon, Benguet.

Roque said a mining company "owner" operating near Benguet Corporation warned him back in January that a dam pipe in the area collapsed, which may have enhanced the land movement.

"Na-record yung parang fountain na bumula doon sa isang dam na nagpapatunay na nagkaroon na ng breach yung (pipe ng) dam," Roque told reporters in a Malacañang media briefing.

"May tubig sa ilalim ng lupa, samahan mo pa ng matinding ulan, ang lupa po ay talagang guguho."

[Translation: It was recorded that there was a fountain-like movement in one dam, which proves that there has been a breach in the dam pipe. There's water underneath the soil, and couple it with intense rains, then the land will really crumble.] 

He said he relayed the information to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

"Ang tingin ko po, nagawa ko naman 'yung katungkulan ko dahil pinarating ko 'tong impormasyon kay Secretary Cimatu, at si Secretary Cimatu sa harap ni Presidente, inamin naman niya na nalaman din niya ang impormasyon," he added.

[Translation: I think I've done my part as I have relayed this information to Secretary Cimatu. And even Secretary Cimatu, in front of the president, admitted he learned about the information.]

Roque, however, admitted he may not have been too firm in relaying the information as he was a "new member" of the cabinet back then.

He added he will withhold judgment regarding accountabilities for the landslide, which killed dozens of residents and workers.

"I will withhold judgment, because although Secretary Cimatu acknowledged he received the information, I do not know what action they took," the spokesperson noted.

A landslide hit a makeshift church in Itogon's Barangay Ucab, where residents took refuge at the height of Typhoon Ompong more than a week ago.

At least 56 bodies have been retrieved from the rubble, while 10 other people remain missing, according to the latest report of the Philippine National Police (PNP) incident command center.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Ina Andolong and Triciah Terada, and Digital Producer Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.