Mayor orders cave shutdown following deaths of ‘treasure hunters’

DUMAGUETE CITY – Siaton, Negros Oriental Mayor Cezanne Fritz Diaz has ordered a shutdown of visits in a cave in the remote barangay of Apoloy in his municipality and imposed a round-the-clock security following the deaths of two “treasure hunters” last week.

Maj. Danilo Santillan, Siaton police chief, told the Philippine News Agency Mayor Diaz was furious after learning about the incident at a cave in Sitio Binukgayan last 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 in vernacular.

Barangay Apoloy chairman Jose Pat was instructed to make sure the area is cordoned off. The two Philippine Army detachments in the area were also asked to help in monitoring activities related to the cave, he added.

Earlier, two men reportedly died from 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 activity.

The cave is about 25 kilometers from the highway and is deemed a “high-risk” area due to the insurgency problem. (PNA)