Court stops quarrying on Ifugao mountain
BAGUIO CITY—A court has banned quarrying and other forms of mineral extraction on Mt. Polis, whose watershed is the main source of irrigation water in rice terraces in Ifugao province and parts of Mountain Province.
Judge Ester Piscoso-Flor of the Regional Trial Court in Banaue town, Ifugao, said the temporary environmental protection order she issued in November 2015 and its extension in December were now permanent.
Mt. Polis is a critical watershed which irrigates the rice terraces in Hungduan and Banaue towns in Ifugao, as well as those in neighboring Mountain Province.
The rice terraces in Hungduan and Banaue are among those inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as world heritage sites.
Flor voided all permits to quarry issued to companies or people on Mt. Polis and directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Public Works and Highways
(DPWH) and the Philippine National Police to confiscate all quarry equipment and remove all structures within the forest reservation.
“The court declares that quarrying within the Mt. Polis area without any qualification whatsoever is illegal per se in view of the fact that Mt. Polis is declared by law as a forest reserve,” she said in her order.
Bishop Valentin Dimoc of the Vicariate of Lagawe (Ifugao) and Bontoc (Mountain Province) said the watershed was being ravaged by quarry operators which supplied materials for both private and government road projects.
The court approved a consent decree (a settlement deal) drawn up by Dimoc, the DENR, the DPWH, the police and the Banaue town government that stipulated how Mt. Polis would be preserved.
But Flor struck down a provision in the settlement which would have allowed manual quarrying.
“The fourth [decree component] regulated utilization. In so far as it advocates quarry operations, [that proposal] must be categorically nullified,” she said.
She said environmental laws prohibited even manually operated quarrying in forest reservations like Mt. Polis which are “inalienable public lands.”
She also said mining and quarrying activities within forest reservations would leave irreversible damage.
“Removing the soil which holds the trees that make up the forest, leads to depletion and eventual destruction of the forest cover, for there cannot be a forest without the fertile ground on which trees grow and abound,” she said. —KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
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