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MGB suspends river quarrying in Pangasinan town

/ 12:25 AM September 19, 2011

DAGUPAN City—The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has suspended quarry operations along the Bued River in San Fabian town, saying these altered the river landscape that eroded farmlands and irrigation canals and swept away houses during typhoons and heavy rains.

In a memorandum sent to four quarry permit holders in Barangay Anonang on September 9, Carlos Tayag, MGB Ilocos director, said the technical personnel who inspected the river found “there is looming danger to life and property along [an] eroding embankment in [Barangay] Binday.”

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Tayag asked quarry operators Melchor Parayno, Marlon Eleria, Josefina de Guzman and Joegina Aspiras to immediately suspend their operations.

It was the People’s Initiative for Christian Development (PICD), a church-based organization, that initiated the study and assessment of the Bued River and quarrying operations there following a massive erosion when Typhoon “Mina” struck last month.

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Fr. Oliver Mendoza, San Fabian parish priest and PICD head, said at least five houses and 2 hectares of agricultural lands were washed out by heavy river current spawned by heavy rains dumped by the typhoon.

He said the “monster river” destroyed 22 houses and 5 hectares of agricultural lands in October 2009 because of heavy rains accompanying Typhoon “Pepeng.”

The PICD said quarrying has been going on for so long in the Bued River, “both upstream and downstream of the San Fabian River Irrigation System (SFRIS).”

“What concerns us most is the massive and unregulated quarry operation in the downstream areas opposite Barangays Anonang in San Fabian and in Barangay Macayug in San Jacinto. Massive because all sorts of river materials are extracted from the river system,” it said.

“As a matter of policy, the MGB had set that only a meter depth of river materials be extracted every year in the river system. This was not observed though by the [permit holders] in the absence of sound monitoring system that should be done by both the local governments concerned and the agency mandated to do it,” it added.

The PCID said quarrying has changed the depth and width of the river and this resulted in stronger river current during heavy rains.

Mendoza said the group asked the government to study the river’s situation. The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) responded and after an assessment, it recommended stopping quarrying operations along the river.

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“Quarrying operations were eventually stopped by the provincial government but the cease-and-desist order was lifted two months later,” he said.

Mendoza said the group hoped that the government would craft a comprehensive plan to stop the further erosion of the river and involve different agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), NIA, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), farmers, residents, local officials and nongovernment organizations.

“The PICD will certainly monitor the situation, as well as provide a venue for a discussion, study and planning that will benefit the communities involved,” Mendoza said.

Reynaldo Monses, Binday barangay captain, said banks in their village started eroding more than 35 years ago.

“This was already a problem here when I was a child. Hopefully I don’t die with this problem still unsolved,” said Juan Juguilon Jr., San Fabian agriculturist, who is a resident of Binday.

Bued River emanates from Benguet and flows to the towns of Sison and San Fabian before it empties into the West Philippine Sea.

Through the years since the late 1970s, several flood control projects, like the construction and fortification of dikes, have been implemented but the erosion of lands in Binday continued.

“The dikes simply collapsed during strong typhoons. Sometimes, these are damaged even before construction is completed,” said Monses.

Juguilon said the villages of Aramal, Anonang, Kabaruan and Angio may suffer the fate of Binday if the government fails to find a long-term solution to the problem.

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TAGS: Environmental Issues, Mining and quarrying, Pangasinan, Philippines – Regions
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