Mayor orders cave shutdown after death of treasure hunters

The cave in the hinterland barangay of Apoloy*photo courtesy of Judy Flores Partlow/PNA

Mayor Cezanne Fritz Diaz of Siaton, Negros Oriental, ordered the sealing of a cave in the hinterland barangay of Apoloy and imposed round-the-clock security following the deaths of two “treasure hunters” last week.

Maj. Danilo Santillan, Siaton police chief, told the Philippine News Agency on Wednesday that the mayor was furious after learning about the incident at a cave in Sitio Binukgayan on February 15.

“Mayor Diaz was very angry upon learning of the illegal activity and immediately ordered that the cave be sealed and to deploy barangay tanods (village watchmen) there to prevent people from getting in,” Santillan said.

Barangay Apoloy chairman Jose Pat was instructed to make sure that the area is cordoned off.

The two Philippine Army detachments in the area were also asked to help in the monitoring of the cave, Santillan said.

Last week, two men died of possible exposure to toxic natural gas or suffocation as they attempted to siphon water out of an inland pool at the entrance of the cave.

The families of the deceased declined an autopsy of the cadavers.

The police chief said they established that there were about 15 people in the group who, when questioned by authorities, claimed they did not know each other and were hired randomly.

The men, apparently fearful of consequences such as possible legal action against them, were reluctant to cooperate with the police investigation, saying they also do not know who their leader was, Santillan said.

The purported treasure hunting is illegal because according to the mayor and the barangay captain, they have not issued any permits for such.

The area where the cave is situated is about 25 kilometers from the highway and is “high-risk” due to the insurgency problem.*PNA

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