MORE than two weeks after the massive flood in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, Rizal Governor Rebecca Ynares has issued an order stopping mining and quarrying operations and urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to do the same for large-scale operations in the province.
While the move was welcomed by anti-mining and environmental groups who blame the “Great Luzon Flood” during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses early this month to the massive degradation of critical watersheds, the DENR is deferring action on the quarry operations in Rizal pending investigation by the DENR.
Rizal Provincial Governor Ynares, in Memorandum Order No. 2020-01 cited the attribution to mining and quarrying operations and related activities in Rizal the loss of lives and the millions in damage to property as a result of flooding caused by heavy rain induced by typhoons such as Ulysses.
The order covers only small-scale mining or quarrying permits issued by the Provincial Government of Rizal under the Small-Scale Mining Act.
“In the interest of public safety and welfare and ensure environmental protection and sustainability, and to address as well the complaints and concerns on threats and impacts thereof, more so, during typhoons and similar natural disturbances, all quarry operations and related activities permitted and actively operating in the Province of Rizal over a total land area of 38.24 hectares, more or less, are hereby ordered stopped and shall remain to be such unless and until authorized to resume operations for just cause or reason,” Ynares said.
Ynares also urged the DENR to cause the immediate stoppage of all operations of mining, quarrying, and related activities that it granted under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which the official stated covers a total of 4,964.32 hectares, including crushing plants.
“Likewise, all local government units in this Province are strongly advised to cause the immediate stoppage of all land development activities, including subdivision development, permitted under RA 7160, unless assessed and found to be compliant with the pertinent laws, rules, and regulations,” the order stated.
Ynares directed the Provincial Director of the Philippine National Police to strictly implement the order and apprehend any violator.
Sought for reaction, DENR Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) have ongoing assessment of quarry operations in the Province.
Leones, the DENR’s Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs, said the even before the Provincial Government of Rizal issued the order, the DENR had already directed the DENR MGB and EMB to assess quarry operations.
The investigation was ordered a week after Typhoon Ulysses.
He said the DENR is not keen on hastily issuing suspension orders for quarry operations with Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) in Rizal Province saying flooding in Marikina and other low-lying areas in Rizal and Metro Manila cannot be attributed to quarrying.
Compared to quarrying in Albay, where there are over 100 quarry permits all around Mayon Volcano, quarrying in the Marikina watershed is minimal.
“Out of the 53,000 hectares in Marikina Watershed, only around 200 hectares are the open quarry operations or disturbed areas,” says Leones.
Most quarry operations, he said, are in the lower Marikina Watershed or lower stream of the Marikina River.
He added that excessive rainfall induced by typhoons in the last two months before Typhoon Ulysses have already caused the Marikina River to reach is saturation point.
Worst, he said that the Marikina River is already heavily-silted, which explains why the DENR is eyeing engineering intervention like widening the river to boost its carrying capacity and help prevent flooding.
A welcome move
Anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina and Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) welcomed Ynares’s order.
“We welcome this order of the Rizal provincial government to stop all quarrying operations. We hope that the local government will commit time, personnel finances to monitor and close all these quarrying operations,” ATM National Coordinator Jesus Vicente C. Garganera said.
Garganera added that the move by the Office of the Governor was somehow surprising because it didn’t activate the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) to communicate and implement this order.
Meanwhile, he called on the DENR and the MGB to heed the call of the Rizal provincial government that all mining tenements in Rizal be immediately suspended.
Garganera said ATM looks forward to a Congressional inquiry on the flooding caused by Ondoy, specifically in Marikina City and other areas in Metro Manila and nearby Rizal towns.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE said it is high time that the Duterte administration start closing down destructive quarrying and mining projects situated in critical watersheds.
“It has been a cat and mouse game since Typhoon Ondoy first exposed the disastrous consequences of the Marikina watershed’s degradation in 2009. A national audit of watersheds should be conducted specifically investigating extractives, land conversion, and infrastructure encroaching on forests and waterways,” Dulce said.
According to Dulce, the recent issuance of a climate emergency declaration in the House of Representatives should translate into more concrete, binding actions such as this stoppage of quarrying in Rizal.