Fool’s Gold: The Tragedy at Isla de OroPosted: December 20, 2011
Fool’s Gold (Iron Pyrites): a worthless rock that resembles gold.
When viewed from the air, Isla de Oro looks like a battleship moored to its dock. Geologically, however, Isla de Oro is what is known as a sandbar. It was formed by the accumulation of sand and silt as the Cagayan River winds down towards its mouth which empties into Macajalar Bay.
The Cagayan River begins its 90-kilometer journey to the sea from the mountains of the Kalatungan Mountain Range in Bukidnon. It is not what I would call a “neat” river. It breaks down into various tributaries along its path before the waters again rejoin just before it hits the sea. In certain places, the river is deep – at others, shallow. Trees in the mountain range typically regulate the flow of excess rainwater into the river.
In 2009, officials of the city government of Cagayan de Oro requested the Department of Environment of Natural Resources to re-zone Isla de Oro so that the area could be titled for either residential or commercial purposes. This request was denied.
Between 2009 and the night of December 16, 2011, Isla de Oro grew to become home to 500 families, 7,000 people. These “informal” settlers built ramshackle homes typical of any squatter area you will find anywhere else. It became a breeding ground for crime and the safe haven for the criminal elements of Cagayan de Oro.
Despite appeals from the DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for Isla de Oro to be cleared of inhabitants, well – as of the night of Friday, December 16th these “informal” settlers were still there.
The wrath of nature precipitated by the rains of Sendong, the denudation of the forests – tragically ensured that many of the “informal” settlers of Isla de Oro would not be there to see the sun rise on Saturday, December 17, 2011.