Illegal quarry in Banahaw back, says mountain guardBy Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY, Philippines – Illegal rock mining activities is back at the slope of Mount Banahaw, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Saturday.
Sally Pangan, DENR protected area supervisor for Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal, said her office has been receiving reports that quarry operations has resumed outside the permitted areas of licensed mining companies.
“The reports were disturbing,” Pangan said.
She urged the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board (PMRB) to immediately act on the reports.
Webster Letargo, PMRB vice chair, requested Pangan, concerned citizens and other environmentalist groups to furnish their office with information on the supposed return of illegal mining activities.
“We will also conduct further investigation. We will not tolerate any violations of mining permit. Mining outside the assigned area is not allowed,” Letargo said over the phone.
Letargo pointed that if the reports of illegal quarry resumption were true, the unlawful activities were only recent. He said the PMRB had been regularly monitoring the operations of licensed miners.
The quarry operation at the slope of Banahaw, like any mining activities in other parts of the province, is under the control and supervision of PMRB, with the local government performing only ministerial functions as provided for under the Local Government Code.
Letargo admitted that some mining companies sometimes conduct quarry operations outside their assigned area.
“We’ve already issued ceased and desist orders to those found violating the terms of their license, Letargo said.
Early this year, the PMRB ordered that all heavy equipment being used in the quarry operations in Sariaya be “color-coded” to prevent its use in unauthorized digging.
Last year, mining authorities and local officials have also put to task the multi-tripartite monitoring team (MMT) to prevent the resurrection of unlawful mining operation.
The team has the power to revoke the permits of quarry operators found conducting illegal mining such as operating outside of its licensed areas.
Letargo said the PMRB has been successful in preventing the return of illegal quarry in Banahaw because of the active cooperation of the DENR, local officials, nongovernment organizations and villagers residing around the quarry sites.
The local government has been limiting quarry operations to the riverbed as part of its flood control program.
Illegal quarry operators, however, entice owners of low-yielding farms, particularly coconut plantations, to sell the land to them, which end up as quarry sites risking the safety of villagers.
At the height of Typhoon Santi in 2009, two youngsters drowned in a mining site in Barangay Sto. Cristo, Sariaya when they slid into a quarry hole.
At the start of his administration in 2010, Governor David Suarez ordered the cessation of all mining activities in the province pending a review and evaluation of all permits issued to new mining companies, particularly in Sariaya.
Two months later, Suarez lifted the suspension to address the needs for aggregates in the government and private construction projects in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.