Excavations by treasure hunters searching for a hoard of gold in the Philippines, said to have been hidden by a Japanese World War II general, are threatening to cause landslides in a remote village.
The search for fabled buried treasure is inspired by centuries-old Filipino folktales, according to an anthropologist. The treasure seems to be just that — a fable — as historians say it probably doesn't even exist.
"People are spending a lot of money and a lot of time and effort looking for stuff that is probably not there," said Piers Kelly, an anthropologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia.
In the latest development, people in the Igbaras district on the island of Panay have asked officials to put a stop to excavations that they fear could cause landslides.
The villagers say the excavations by 10 men have gone on for more than a year near their village, in a fenced-off area that's about 10,800 square feet (1,000 square metres).
But according to local officials, the treasure hunters say that national authorities in Manila gave them permission to dig, and that they will continue their excavations. The treasure hunters also turned away local police from the excavation site.
The village where the excavations are taking place is built on a hillside and faces a "very high risk" of landslides, according to a previous assessment by the Philippines' Mines and Geosciences Bureau. The villagers fear that up to nine houses could be buried.
The mayor of the Igbaras district, Jaime Esmeralda, has assured the villagers that his officials have granted no permits for treasure hunting, excavations or mining in the area.